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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

3rd Congressional District Candidates On Healthcare And What Inspired Them To Run For Office

A side-by-side photo of Thorpe and Curtis.
Headshots Courtesy of Thorpe and Curtis campaigns
Rep. John Curtis and Devin Thorpe are running to represent Utah's 3rd Congressional District.

Rep. John Curtis, R-UT, is running for his second full term this November and Democrat Devin Thorpe is challenging him for his seat.

The third Congressional District is reliably Republican — Curtis beat his Democratic challenger in 2018 by 40%.

Here’s what Curtis and Thorpe had to say about the federal pandemic response, how to lower healthcare costs and why they’re running for federal office.

John Curtis

Rep. John Curtis said he never intended to stay in politics this long. He ran for Provo Mayor in 2009 because he was frustrated with how the city dealt with the shooting range business he co-owned. But when the third congressional incumbent resigned in 2017, Curtis decided to jump into federal politics.

“Not only do I work hard, I've worked effectively,” he said. “We've passed a number of bills that are critical bills for Utah.”

Curtis is particularly proud of his work on public lands. He sponsored legislation that transferred management of some in Emery County to the state and transferred ownership of some land to local government entities.

“What was remarkable about it was that we pulled environmentalists, ranchers — every stakeholder out there — together,” he said. “A group that normally does not get along or agree — we got them to agree on how these million acres should be used.”

Looking forward, Curtis said one of his biggest priorities during his next term would be helping Utahns who are still struggling financially because of the pandemic.

“Really what Congress needs to do now is bend that corner from vast amounts of money going to everybody to specific amounts of money going to those in need,” he said.

That includes people in the hospitality and airline industries, Curtis said. While the candidates share similar views on many issues, there is a divide when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. Curtis wants to repeal it and replace it with something that lowers costs for Americans, including focusing more on preventative care.

“We've got to increase health savings accounts, things like that, to give people control over their own health, where they can now use health savings accounts to keep themselves healthy,” he said.

Curtis said these policies show that he’s fiscally conservative, which aligns with the views of his very Republican District.

Devin Thorpe

Curtis’ challenger, Democrat Devin Thorpe, said he aligns with many of Curtis’ views, but would also have a “superpower” as a Democrat representing a Republican district.

“That member of Congress gets to vote their conscience,” Thorpe explained. “When those Democrats are in office and they vote against their party, the party knows that they have to take it because the alternative is not for them to find a better Democrat: a more liberal, more progressive Democrat that will champion their tried and true beliefs. Their alternative is a Republican.”

Before running for Congress, Thorpe worked in finance and then transitioned to writing and speaking about poverty, climate change and global health. He said that experience would help him improve the Affordable Care Act, without repealing it.

“We can take the best ideas from other countries,” Thorpe said. “We can build a health care system that will work for America and for Utahns.”

Thorpe said he’s agnostic to the specifics, because there are many good proposals out there.

“I will fight every day for the principle that our healthcare system must cover everyone affordably,” he said.

Thorpe is also focused on health concerns related to the current COVID-19 pandemic and said the federal government needs to change its strategy.

“It starts with a federal mask mandate that is in place until we have effectively vaccinated enough of the population that it is no longer spreading in general in the population,” he said. “Masks are such an easy thing for us to do when we're around other people.”

To learn more about Curtis’ and Thorpe’s positions, check out KUER’s Voter Guide.

Republican Rep. John Curtis has represented Utah’s 3rd Congressional District since 2017. He is being challenged this year by Democrat Devin Thorpe, a former businessman, writer and speaker.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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