Updated: Jun 10
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OGDEN — The two Democratic hopefuls in the 1st District U.S. House race met for their second pre-primary debate, offering contrasting focuses and styles. Jamie Cheek emphasized her “big, progressive” ideas and desire to help those in need. She’s originally from Wyoming but now lives in Ogden and has worked in vocational rehabilitation with the Utah Office of State Rehabilitation in the Logan, Brigham City and Ogden areas for the last seven years.
“I work every day with the people in our community who are fallen behind and who are fallen through the cracks because of the decisions made in Washington,” she said. She voiced particular concern with everyday people. “We must win for working people. This past decade, working people have witnessed stagnant wages, increased prices, increased taxes, increased costs of health care, benefits cuts, broken dreams, broken families. It has to stop,” she said. Darren Parry put a focus on his roots in the area and his working relationships with power brokers as a leader in the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. His duties as tribal leader “have given me a seat at the table with local county government, the governor, the state legislature and our federal delegation,” he said. Moreover, he is deeply familiar with the 1st District, which includes Weber County, northern Davis County and eight other counties in northern and northeastern Utah. He was born and raised in Syracuse, he noted, has lived in both Weber and Davis counties and now lives in Providence in the Cache Valley. The district “is really known to me and I know the people that reside there. I know what their wishes are. I know what their dreams are,” he said. On specifics, they sounded off on health care, police reform and the national debt, among other topics. Monday’s debate, available online, was hosted by Weber State University’s Olene Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service. U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Republican from Brigham City, now holds the 1st District seat, but he isn’t seeking reelection to the post. That’s created a crowded field, with four GOPers and the two Democrats facing off in their respective primaries on June 30 for a place on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. The four GOPers are Blake Moore, Kerry Gibson, Katie Witt and Bob Stevenson, and they face off in a debate also hosted by Weber State, to be streamed via the Walker Institute’s Facebook page starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Improving healthcare coverage was a notable point of departure for the two candidates. Cheek backs universal healthcare coverage via expansion of the federal Medicare health program to everyone. “This is a program that allows everyone who needs it healthcare coverage, and it makes it more affordable and more accessible,” she said. The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, passed under President Barack Obama, doesn’t go far enough, according to Cheek. Moreover, it faces constant attack from Republican lawmakers. “Just standing by the ACA, which was progressive when it was passed, is not enough. We have to take bigger steps,” she said. Medicare for all may take time to achieve, but taking “a progressive stance and being bold in these bipartisan negotiations allows us to make real change.” Parry, by contrast, spoke of using the ACA as a jumping-off point. “I believe in defending and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. While it’s not perfect, it serves a means and we need to make sure we tweak that all the time. I will work with Republicans to lower prescription drug costs, especially for the elderly,” he said, adding that the federal Medicaid program, geared to low-income people, kids and others, needs to be expanded.
The candidates were also asked what sort of policy they’d seek in the pursuit of social and racial justice.
Cheek alluded to the ongoing protests against police brutality and for racial justice stemming from the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. “This is the biggest civil rights movement that we have seen, and so we need to be taking drastic action,” Cheek said. She “fully” backs a proposal put forward by Lex Scott, leader of Black Lives Matter Utah, that calls for a focus on deescalation training for police officers, would regulate release of video from officers’ body cameras and more.
Parry said the issue hits home for him as a Native American, noting the Bear River Massacre of 1863, which resulted in the decimation of many of his Shoshone forebears at the hands of the U.S. Army. Floyd, he said, “was murdered by a police officer” but he emphasized the import of nonviolent means to demonstrate against such instances.
“I support the rights to protest. But I support the right for nonviolent protest and I condemn all of the protests that have happened that have caused destruction,” he said. Both candidates expressed support for police reform legislation put forward Monday by Democrats in the U.S. House, the Justice and Policing Act of 2020. The measure would ban use of chokeholds by police, create a national police registry for misdeeds and prohibit transfer of U.S. military equipment to local police departments.
To reduce the national debt, Cheek said federal tax law needs to be changed to assure that the super wealthy pay “their fair share,” a bigger slice of taxes. “I’m talking about the top 1%, the kind who own three or four homes and have summer yachts. Those are the people who need to be paying taxes on their income, and that will help us cover some of this debt that we talk about,” she said. She’d oppose cuts to the U.S. Social Security and Medicare systems.
Parry would likewise oppose cuts to social programs to balance the budget. The issue, though, “absolutely has to be a priority” so future generations don’t foot the bill. A solution could come via a balanced budget amendment, he said, putting the focus on working with Republicans “to make sure we spend within our means.”