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Candidates for Governor Address Utahns' Biggest Concerns—Healthcare, Air Quality, Education

Nicole Nixon

Every four years, ahead of a gubernatorial election, the nonprofit Utah Foundation surveys Utahns about what issues they are most concerned about. In a panel discussion put on by the foundation on Thursday, candidates for the governor’s race were given a chance to respond to those concerns.

The polling found that Utahns’ top three priorities in 2016 are healthcare, air quality and K-12 education. Gov. Gary Herbert is running for reelection. He says he is proud of the things he’s worked for so far, including growing the economy and putting more money into education.

“We’ve put about 1.8 billion dollars of new money into education,” he said. “We want to be in control of our education system. We want to make sure we have state and local control of the standards, the curriculum, the textbook acquisition and the testing.”

But democratic candidate Vaughn Cook says Utah is still far behind on funding education and paying teachers.

“The lowest spending in the nation per student is not something to beat our chest about,” Cook said. “Now that doesn’t mean that we can just pour more money into education and make things better.”

The other democratic candidate, Mike Weinholtz, criticized how Herbert and the republican-controlled legislature handled Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

“These are taxes that Utahns have already paid and we’re not getting them back. This is a great example of putting politics before people, which is something that I will never do,” Weinholtz said. 

The three challengers who appeared at the panel are all businessmen with no prior experience in politics. Republican candidate Johnathan Johnson says elected officials often forget about the people they serve in favor of partisan politics.

“I love the fact that three of us up here aren’t politicians,” Johnson said. “We’re businessmen and we’re eager to represent the people."

Ten candidates have officially filed to run for governor. The state republican and democratic conventions will be held at the end of April.

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