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Utah Senate hopefuls focus on child trafficking, education, change

By Tim Vandenack - | Apr 15, 2022
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The three Republican candidates for the District 5 seat in the Utah Senate are, from left, incumbent Ann Millner, Kevin Hall and Doug Durbano. Utah Republican Party delegates will weigh in on the three at the party convention Saturday, April 23, 2022.
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Doug Durbano, Republican hopeful for the District 5 seat in the Utah Senate in the 2022 election cycle.
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Doug Durbano, Republican hopeful for the District 5 seat in the Utah Senate in the 2022 election cycle.
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Kevin Hall, Republican hopeful for the District 5 seat in the Utah Senate in the 2022 election cycle.
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Utah Sen. Ann Millner

OGDEN — The race for the District 5 Utah Senate spot features a trio of Republicans — the incumbent with unfinished business, a businessman worried of “dark clouds ahead” and a U.S. Air Force reservist with a big focus on fighting child trafficking.

Sen. Ann Millner of Ogden, an instructor and former president of Weber State University, is seeking her third term. “I still have some work I’d like to complete,” she said, particularly with regard to workforce and education issues.

Doug Durbano of Mountain Green speaks of a need for a “serious course correction.” “Was I ready for more of the same or was it time for change? I decided it was time for change and I believe I could be that change agent,” he said.

Kevin Hall, also of Mountain Green, also felt pulled into the race. “After seeing everything our country has gone through, I decided I need to step up and be the change I wanted to see,” said Hall. He cited, in particular, the failure of GOPers “to stand up and fight for our political principles.”

All three Republicans are seeking a place on the ballot through party delegates and they’ll face off at the Utah Republican Party Convention set for April 23. If two make it through the convention, they’ll face off at the June 28 Republican primary. If one garners more than 60% support on April 23, he or she becomes the sole GOP nominee and goes directly onto the November ballot.

Michael Blodgett of Ogden, a Democrat, is the only other candidate and will appear on the general election ballot.

District 5, renumbered from District 18 per redistricting, covers all or parts of Riverdale, South Ogden, Ogden, Washington Terrace and Uintah in Weber County, extending into parts of Morgan and Davis counties as well.

Candidates’ focal points

Millner, who teaches students at Weber State seeking master’s degrees in health administration, puts a focus in her messaging on encouraging parental engagement in education. She also touts the import of allowing for “stackable” credits in education, that is, accumulation of credits in different endeavors that lead to degrees and career advancement.

With Hill Air Force Base sitting in District 5, Millner puts an additional emphasis on encouraging the aerospace and defense business cluster in the area. The sector is important to the U.S. defense and serves as a key job creator.

More generally, she cites her experience, noting that it can take multiple terms in office to see an initiative through. “I think I bring experience to this. … I’ve been around the Legislature for a long time,” she said. “I understand the process well.”

As the area and state’s population surges, planning for growth and the future, too, is important, Millner said.

Durbano, who unsuccessfully vied for the 1st District U.S. House seat in 2020, points to inflation and what he believes are high taxes as key concerns. Property taxes, though levied at the county and local level, not by state officials, are a particular focus of ire for him.

Broadly, the varied problems he sees give him a grim view of the future. “I believe that our safety and security here are at risk. There are dark clouds ahead,” he said.

He calls for a focus on defending the family and business. “We need a safe haven for those things in Utah,” he said.

He calls himself a “conservative constitutionalist” and puts emphasis on the importance of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which delegates powers not held by the feds to the states or people.

Hall, seeking office for the first time, served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and is now finishing three years as an Air Force reservist. He is a pilot.

The failure, in his view, of Republicans to stand up more forcefully against “tyrannical lockdowns” spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic figured in his bid. Related to that, he’s helped others in the Air Force fight military vaccination requirements on religious grounds.

Asked what big issues he’d like to address, he pointed to child and human trafficking, which, he maintains, “gets brushed under the rug systematically.”

He also lamented what he says has been the erosion of parental rights in education matters, what he believes to be the presence of critical race theory in Utah schools and “the woke agenda.” The woke agenda, he said, entails indoctrination of children into a belief system that divides them into victim and oppressor classes, thereby fostering division, which ties into criticism targeting critical race theory.

Academics say critical race theory, an increasing political flashpoint, is a means of trying to understand the evolution of racial norms and attitudes. Foes see critical race theory as a belief system meant to girder notions that there are oppressor and oppressed classes of people in the nation.

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