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Democratic Candidates For Utah’s First Congressional District Show Political Stripes At Debate

Photo of candidates on debate stage.
Steve Griffin
Darren Parry and Jamie Cheek are the only Democrats in a primary election for Utah’s congressional races.";

Darren Parry is the council chair of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. Jamie Cheek is a district director for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation. The two are the only Democrats in a primary election for any of Utah’s congressional races. 

But though they share a party, they used a debate Monday afternoon to underscore their differences along the political spectrum. Parry called himself a moderate and a “bridge builder” who brings people together across party lines. Cheek is running as a progressive and said she works with underserved Utahns who fall through the cracks. 

On health care, both agreed insurance costs are too expensive. Cheek said she wants Medicare for all. Parry doesn’t.

“I am not for a single-payer system,” Parry said. “I will defend and strengthen the Affordable Care Act.”

On climate change, Parry mentioned incremental steps the government can take to reduce emissions, like investing in electric vehicles to move away from fossil fuel industries. Cheek said we need the Green New Deal.

“Not only does it create progressive changes in the way that we have carbon emissions, but it also has a jobs guarantee,” she said.

A Democrat hasn’t represented the district for nearly 40 years, but both candidates said they’re working to connect with voters of any political affiliation. Parry asked Cheek how she could win as a progressive.

“Progressive candidates have the ability to excite the Democratic base while also talking about the things that matter the most to all Utahns,” Cheek said. “We do have the things people care about — health care, education and climate change — all here for us.”

Cheek turned the table on Parry, saying moderate candidates haven’t been successful against Republicans in the district for the past 10 election cycles. Parry said people know him and want to work with him.

“They know that party will never get in the way of policy,” Parry said. “I will always do the right thing.”

The primary election is June 30.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow Emily on Twitter @Em_Means13

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