1st District US House hopefuls zero in on inflation, Ukraine, gun violence
SALT LAKE CITY — The three Republican hopefuls for the 1st District U.S. House post faced off Thursday, addressing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gun violence, inflation and more.
The encounter, hosted by the Utah Debate Commission, grew heated at times as the candidates — incumbent Blake Moore and challengers Tina Cannon and Andrew Badger — sparred over their differences. The three, who face off in the June 28 GOP primary, met in the studios of KSL-TV in Salt Lake City, their only planned head-to-head encounter.
Cannon, a former Morgan County Council member from Mountain View, put a big focus on her roots in the 1st District, which includes Weber County and covers Northern Utah. Moore actually lives outside the district in Salt Lake City, though he grew up in Ogden. Badger, who grew up in Utah and now lives in Ogden, is a relative newcomer to the 1st District.
“Unlike my two opponents, I’ve spent my life here in this district, working here, serving here,” said Cannon, a lifetime resident of Northern Utah. “You know me and I know you. I know the issues of this district because I’ve spent a lifetime working, serving, living, working on these issues with you.”
Moore, first elected in 2020 and seeking his second term, took particular aim at the Democratic administration of President Joe Biden. “The most important aspect of what I’ve been up to for the last 18 months is pushing back as hard as possible against Biden’s horrific policies,” he said.
But he also put a focus on his ability to be productive as a lawmaker, notwithstanding the frequently heated atmosphere in Washington, D.C. Addressing the ballooning U.S. national debt and budget deficit is a priority — “not just why it’s the case, but what we can do about it” — and he noted a task force of officials from the area he’s formed to help him come up with ways to tackle the issue.
Badger sounded a message of defiance toward the current slate of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., suggesting GOPers need to be more aggressive in pursuing the Republican agenda. The lack of pushback by Republicans against the Biden administration for the “defeat in Afghanistan” figured big in his decision to run.
He also name-checked U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, the conservative Utah lawmaker aligned with former President Donald Trump, who’s vying for his third term in the Senate this cycle.
“Our nation is in a state of crisis and our current representatives aren’t acting like it,” Badger said. “The question before us today is not necessarily one of goals, it’s of means. Do we take the Mike Lee, America First approach and defund this government if necessary to remove illegal things like the vaccine mandate? Or do we throw our hands in the air and say we’re the minority government, there’s nothing we can do?”
When asked the key issue facing the 1st District, by debate moderator Thomas Wright, the three offered differing answers.
Badger pointed to U.S. foreign policy and national security, both key focuses in his campaign messaging. He lamented lack of oversight by Congress of the Biden Administration’s “reckless foreign policy,” pointing to the $40 billion U.S. aid package to Ukraine approved by Congress and signed into law by Biden last month.
“What we’re doing right now in Ukraine, specifically, is we’re escalating the situation without any strategic goal, without any oversight of the goal,” said Badger who previously worked for a management consulting firm and, before that, as an intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Meanwhile, he went on, Utahns worry about rising gasoline prices, election security and more.
Cannon zeroed in on inflation and rising costs — faulting the Biden administration for both.
“These are real issues affecting our families here at home,” she said. “We need to reverse these policies. All we need to do is have this administration put it back the way they found it. Let’s go back to the Trump-era policies on energy, let’s increase the supply of oil. That brings down the price of all of the products that are made from oil as well, and we start bringing real solutions to the table.”
Moore alluded to feedback he’s heard in his town hall meetings in identifying the key issues. “In the near term its inflation. In the long term, their biggest concern is our debt and how this plays out,” he said.
Many seem to have lost hope that debt can be brought under control, and Moore pointed to what he sees as excessive stimulus spending initiatives put forward by the Biden administration. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Moore said, “led to suppressing our work force, creating monetary supply and stimulus money that we don’t need.”
The war in Ukraine resurfaced later in the debate, with Cannon, like Badger, expressing concern about sending aid to help the country fend off Russia. While sympathetic to Ukrainians, she noted that U.S. aid money comes from taxpayers.
“We are giving a blank check to Ukraine without knowing what they’re going to do with it. You cannot do that. You cannot do that with taxpayer money,” Cannon said.
Moore, who voted for the $40 billion aid package, blamed the “weakness” of the Biden administration for Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. Now, he believes the United States needs to help Ukraine to keep the war from expanding into neighboring countries, U.S. allies through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“It has to stay in Ukraine,” Moore said. If the war expands into NATO countries “we’re in a fight that we do not want to be in. We’re putting boots on the ground, our servicemen and women at risk and we’re going to be spending a ton more money… We support (Ukraine) now, we save countless dollars and we save lives, particularly with ours but also our NATO allies.”
On gun violence, Cannon called for making sure federal crime databases are kept up-to-date to make sure criminals aren’t able to acquire firearms. At the same time, more focus needs to be put on addressing mental health issues, which underlies some mass shootings, she said.
Moore also put a focus on bolstering efforts to address mental health issues. “We have a major mental health issue going on. I see it with the youth that I mentor and get involved with and we have to be able to come up with solutions and it has to be all encompassing,” he said.
Badger cautioned against letting the political left “weaponize” mass shootings to push their agenda.
“The reality is, evil exists and they’re going to find a way, evil people are going to find a way to kill others. … So we can’t allow the left to try to undermine our fundamental rights,” Badger said. He would favor legislation meant to address mental health issues and he said placing armed guards at schools might also help. One of the most recent mass shootings occurred at a school in Uvalde, Texas.
The winner of the June 28 GOP primary advances to the general election and will face Democrat Rick Jones on the November ballot.