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

Young Republicans And Democrats Weigh In On Where They Want Their Parties To Go

Voter at Vivant Smart Home Arena
Renee Bright
A voter at Vivant Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Election Day.

2020 will set records for turning out more voters than ever in Utah. One group with a spotlight on it has been young voters. KUER’s Caroline Ballard spoke separately with two young organizers in the state to hear their perspectives. Gibson Green is the executive director of the Utah Young Republicans, and Angela Charles is the National Committee Representative for Young Democrats of Utah and the chair for the Salt Lake County Black Democrats.

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Caroline Ballard: Tell me a little bit about your impression of how today has gone so far for young voters and your organizations here in Utah.

Gibson Green: Today is going well. I mean, there's still a lot of polls that need to come in and ballots that need to be counted. But we're feeling pretty good no matter what the outcome is. We're looking forward to the end of this, though, for sure.

Angela Charles: Luckily this year we were very fortunate to have three young Democrats running for State House races, Oscar Mata in [House] District 8, Ashlee Matthews in House District 38 and for Fatima Dirie in House District 30. So the polls haven't closed yet, but we're really looking forward to those results once we get them.

CB: What issues are young voters in each of your parties uniquely engaged with and how is that playing out with candidates on the ballot?

AC: I think one of the primary issues that young Democrats care about, particularly in Utah, is the air quality. Seeing if there is something that the state legislator can do on their end to help accommodate that. Those three candidates are very passionate about that issue. There is an issue with college affordability. I don't know if you've seen the prices at the University of Utah, but it is definitely concerning as a young college student myself. And just issues about whether they would be able to own housing or even the skyrocketing price of apartments or renting.

GG: One of the biggest things for us right now is the national deficit. We really wanted to elect candidates that we think will help lower the deficit for America, for our generation.

CB: Gibson, what about climate? I know that environmental issues are something that young Republicans often differ from older Republicans as being concerned about. Do you see that here in Utah?

GG: We definitely want to take intake from all young Republicans, of course. But our board has specifically talked about what our answer is going to be when people ask us about the environment. And we've tried to look into things like carbon dividends and things like that. I think that's been a big issue that hasn't really been talked about among older Republicans.

CB: Angela, what races are you following up and down the ballot?

AC: So our eyes are definitely on the Ben McAdams race. We don't think that we'll have the results tonight just because that race will be so close, like it was two years ago. So Ben McAdams is definitely high priority on our list.

CB: How do you think the outcome of this presidential election will impact where each of your parties go from here?

GG: It's going to impact it a lot because for the last four years, the platform of the Republican Party has been Trump. And if he gets elected again, it will be Trump for four more years. However, if Trump does not get reelected, the Republican Party is seriously going to have to consider what exactly our platform is. Of course, we're always going to stand for the basic fundamental Republican values: freedom for all, constitutional rights for all. But as far as our platform goes, we're really going to have to consider which direction we're going.

AC: I was literally just thinking about that before we got on this call. If it is lost, I think there is going to be a soul searching moment as to what the Democratic Party is, because we've tried two candidates. We've tried Hillary Clinton and we tried Joe Biden, somewhat different, somewhat similar in the establishment politics. But if Joe Biden does lose tonight, I think there is going to be a sort of soul searching moment within the Democratic Party.

CB: Where would you like to see it go?

GG: For me personally, I am more of a traditionalist. I can't speak for our whole board, but I definitely love our Constitution and I hold it dear and I really want to protect those rights. I really want our Republican Party to still stand strong with the Constitution, with freedom for all. And so that's kind of the direction that I would like to see our GOP go, and I think that it will stay close to that.

AC: I'd like to see more young people involved. I think this is going to be the last race where we see baby boomers have tremendous influence. So I'd like to see people younger than 55 run for president. I think it's doable. So I think that may be the next step. If we do have that soul searching moment.

CB: How do you feel about what you’ve seen from the young vote?

GG: I think our state has a younger population in general. And I think that some ways that we get people involved is through Utah Young Republicans and through our state GOP reaching out to us and getting us involved in different events, getting people to meet different candidates and things like that as young Republicans.

AC: Young people are passionate — this go-around more so than 2016. There has been record high youth turnout this year with early voting. I think that people are starting to finally realize the average age of the House of Representatives is 57. And with that, millennials are the largest generation. So I think people are now starting to see that, hey, we need to start being in power because we need to have a say so in our future. I think that's going to be something that we're seeing more along the lines … I don't remember this. I was young. But when Bill Clinton won in 1992, he was the first baby boomer president and that was huge to that generation and I think with our generation now, I think we'll start seeing stuff like that in the future.

Caroline is the Assistant News Director
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