Utah’s 2nd Congressional Candidates On The Affordable Care Act And The Federal Coronavirus Response
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, has represented the state's 2nd Congressional District since 2013. Democrat Kael Weston is challenging him for the seat. While Stewart said he’s represented his constituents fairly, Weston believes the congress member has acted as President Donald Trump’s representative to Utah.
There are some similarities between Kael Weston and Chris Stewart. They both have defense experience — Stewart as an Air Force pilot and Weston as a state department official in Afghanistan and Iraq. They’re also both published authors.
But the two differ widely on policy, and Weston pointed to their positions on the Affordable Care Act as an example. He said he gets his health insurance through the ACA and that the ACA isn’t what’s wrong with health care in the United States.
Weston said until everyone has access to health care, there’s more to be done.
“There's different ways to get to [health care] for all,” he said. “I do not favor taking away private insurance from people, but I think there's ways to look at what Medicaid expansion has meant, what maybe lowering the age of Medicare could mean, a public option. Those are all areas within health care, I think, that would be a priority.”
As for the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Weston said the federal government has completely failed in its response, and he would support another stimulus package.
But what’s top of mind for him right now is the gravity of the election.
“I do think that the edge of the cliff is close,” he said. “As a country, we’ve got a president that talked about delaying the election. We've got a president that talks about not honoring the outcome of the election. And you have facilitators like Chris Stewart who have looked the other way on some of these fundamentally important constitutional issues.”
That’s the biggest reason Weston said he wants to unseat the incumbent — Stewart’s support of Trump. Weston said that comes at the expense of constituents.
“Why I'm running is to give voice to everyone in the district, whichever party they may vote or support or neither party,” he said. “So I think that's been one of the biggest differences. If I thought [Stewart] was doing his job well, I would not be challenging him.”
Over the past few years, Chris Stewart has shown his support for Trump — though he also said the president’s comments make his job harder sometimes. And Stewart is confident he’s tried his best to represent Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.
“I know what I believe,” Stewart said. “I am a conservative, and I'm proud to be a conservative. And the question is, are most of the people in the district, do they believe many of the same things? That's essentially what the election comes down to, is do I represent the majority of the district? And I think that I do.”
Stewart has voted to overturn or replace the Affordable Care Act many times since it passed into law 10 years ago. He has also co-sponsored a bill to take its place.
Stewart said he supports protecting those with pre-existing conditions and keeping people on their parents’ insurance until age 26. But he said a program that allows people to buy insurance across state lines and allows them customize their insurance coverage is a better solution.
“For example, we no longer need maternity insurance. My wife and I aren’t going to have any more children,” he said. “But under Obamacare, we're forced to buy a plan that provides maternity insurance. By allowing people to customize their plans more to their needs, that also helps to reduce costs, and by reducing costs, you increase access for people.”
Congress has stalled on a new stimulus relief package in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Stewart has called Democrats’ proposal a “socialist wish list,” citing measures like removing funding for community policing programs.
What he said he would support, though, is aid for small businesses, the airline and hospitality industries and an additional $300 per week in benefits for chronically unemployed people, like Trump has supported.
“There's bipartisan support for that,” Stewart said. “And if our Democratic colleagues would allow us to vote on that package, I would vote yes.”
Utah’s 2nd Congressional District is ranked solidly Republican. In 2018, Stewart beat his Democratic opponent with 56% of the vote.
To learn more about Weston and Stewart’s positions, check out KUER’s voter guide.