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Herbert and Johnson Engage in GOP Gubernatorial Debate

Utah Governor Gary Herbert faced off with Republican challenger Jonathon Johnson in a debate Monday leading up to the state GOP convention later this month. 

Governor Herbert and Overstock.com board chairman Jonathon Johnson met at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.  The discussion was broadcast on the Doug Wright show on KSLNewsradio. The conservatives deliberated education, health care and air quality. But they had the biggest disagreement over how to fight the federal government’s control of public lands in the state.  Johnson said the solution should be sought in court.

“It’s the time that the state brings a lawsuit to transfer the land back to the state just like it was done in Illinois and Nebraska, Florida and other states with the same act of statehood act that we have done. I’m ready to bring suit quickly when I’m governor,” said Johnson.

Governor Herbert called for a more measured approach.  He said state officials should depend on legislation being proposed in Congress by Utah Republican Rob Bishop in order to gain state control of federal land.

“Congressman Bishop believes we’ve got the votes.  We need to let that play out. We do have 26 lawsuits going on right now. We’re negotiating. We’re trying legislate and we’re also suing. But it would be counter-productive and probably reckless if we filed a lawsuit to try to take these lands over now before we let the legislative process go forward,” said Herbert.

At one point in the debate, Johnson challenged Herbert to sign a pledge not to raise taxes in the next four years.  Herbert refused and called such a pledge foolish.  Both men will go before delegates at the state GOP convention later this month.  Johnson would need to get more than 40 percent of delegate votes to force the incumbent governor into a primary. 

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