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3rd Congressional GOP primary voter guide: What to know about Bird, Dougall, Kennedy, Lawrence and Peay

The Republican primary candidates in Utah's 3rd Congressional District are Roosevelt Mayor JR Bird, Utah State Auditor John Dougall, state Rep. Mike Kennedy, businessman Case Lawrence and attorney Stewart Peay.
Roosevelt City Council / Utah State Auditor / Utah Senate
Case for Congress Campaign / Peay for Congress Campaign
The Republican primary candidates in Utah's 3rd Congressional District are Roosevelt Mayor JR Bird, Utah State Auditor John Dougall, state Rep. Mike Kennedy, businessman Case Lawrence and attorney Stewart Peay.

With current Rep. John Curtis throwing his hat into the Senate race to replace Mitt Romney, Utah’s 3rd Congressional District has an opening for a new congressman. There are five candidates in the Republican primary to succeed Curtis:

We asked Utahns what mattered to them during the primary season and that feedback informed this primary voter guide.

Methodology: An identical survey was sent to all five campaigns. Provided answers were fact-checked prior to the publication of this guide and we included links and/or editor’s notes on our findings. If a candidate did not respond, KUER leaned on public statements, interviews and additional reporting to provide voters with useful information. Candidates appear in alphabetical order by surname.

Why do you want this job? (Mikaela, Morgan County)

  • Bird: I feel compelled to do everything I can to fix the current state of our nation. Being a business owner, and the Mayor of a city in rural Utah, I have experience in finance, energy, public lands, water, infrastructure and immigration. I’ve helped turn things around in Roosevelt by increasing transparency, and accountability, and intend to do the same at the national level. I have been greatly blessed, and feel a strong sense of duty to fight for our district and Utah.
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is based on statements in a March 31, 2024 interview with the podcast PoliticIt.

    Dougall said he was talking with a law professor about his concerns over Congressional overreach and inaction by the Supreme Court to address it.

    “And he said, you know, at the end of the day, the Supreme Court's not really going to fix these issues, and no matter how good you guys do in Utah, you're not going to fix them. If you really care about these issues, you have to be willing to go to Congress, which caused for some uncomfortable conversations with my wife at Thanksgiving as I started to talk about this concept of there's some serious problems here, and I'm concerned. And I think I have to run and share a message of fiscal sanity. I look at my two year old grandson, and I know I had a better future than my parents, and they had a better future than theirs. I'm concerned … I don't think he's going to have a better future than I have, and that's a problem.” via PoliticIt interview

  • Kennedy: To help make a positive difference. Our nation faces a spiraling debt crisis, diminishing freedoms, and a lack of civility in policymaking. As a doctor, attorney, and legislator in our part-time legislature, I bring a unique skill set to tackle these immense challenges. I am committed to listening, restoring fiscal discipline, enhancing border security, and providing common-sense leadership in Washington to hold the government accountable and make life more affordable for our families.
  • Lawrence: I am running for Congress because I am deeply concerned about the direction of our country and the dysfunction in our House of Representatives. I love my country and can't stand on the sidelines any longer. I have had a successful career and family;  and I feel a responsibility at this point in my life to give back with my experience, wisdom and lessons learned. 
  • Peay: I believe that based upon my time in the military, practicing law, serving as the Utah County GOP Chair and living my entire life here in Utah that I have a unique set of skills that will allow me to go to Washington, DC and help get Congress back on track. I will be able to work with others, build coalitions and solve difficult problems related to immigration, spending and national security. I took an oath years ago when I enlisted in the Utah National Guard to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, I still feel that duty today. 

If elected, how do you plan to represent all of your constituents, not just those of your own party? (Alison, Salt Lake County)

  • Bird: While I am a proud Republican, I am first and foremost, an American. As Mayor, I listen to and work with all residents within our city regardless of party affiliation. I’ve consistently implemented conservative principles of limited government, supporting the family, self reliance, and fostering economic growth. These proven ideals have, and will continue to elevate our society. I recognize the value of listening to the perspectives of all constituents. As your representative, I am committed to working tirelessly to serve the needs and interests of everyone in our community. 
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is based on statements on X, formerly Twitter, and in a March 31, 2024 interview with the podcast PoliticIt.

    On X, formerly Twitter, Dougall has said that Congress “has devolved into partisan cheerleading, neglecting its oversight role” and emphasized that the Constitution is more important than any administration.

    In an interview with the podcast PoliticIt, he also said it’s important to work across the aisle to “bring Democrats along on principles of freedom and liberty and fiscal responsibility,” by helping them understand why that is important to their constituents.

  • Kennedy: I am committed to being a voice for Utahns, fostering open dialogues and ensuring every decision reflects the needs of our district and state. My record in reducing taxes, balancing budgets, protecting freedoms, and working with others to deliver results that benefit our families and communities is clear. We must stand on principle in Washington while restoring common-sense, integrity, and civility to keep the conversation focused on solutions that make our country stronger than ever before. 
  • Lawrence: Being the Representative of the 3rd District is not just about voting; I am also committed to establishing the most responsive, efficient and effective constituent office in Utah. I will bring excellence to all of my operations and interactions with my constituents. 
  • Peay: I plan to hold regular town halls in all parts of the district and listen to all voices who attend. My goal is to understand the district, its needs and its preferences and move ahead accordingly. 

How will you build consensus in Washington to address immigration issues? (Judy, Salt Lake)

  • Bird: Immigration has always been a major issue in our country. The recent escalation in border crossings stems from an unwillingness of the executive branch to enforce the laws that are already in place regarding immigration. First we need to hold the executive branch accountable to execute our current laws. In addition, I would look to build consensus on ways to improve the legal immigration process, making it simpler and less costly for good people to come to the United States, all the while implementing stricter penalties on those who are coming illegally and wanting to skip to the front of the line.
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is based on statements on X, formerly Twitter.

    “We must have an orderly immigration system that meets the economic needs of our nation, fully secures our borders, and puts an end to the drug trafficking that threatens our communities.” via X, formerly Twitter

    In another post, Dougall cited the Libertarian think-tank Cato Institute to enumerate problems with the H-1B visa program, the employer-sponsored green card system. He said it’s “Just one example of the need to fix and streamline America's legal immigration system.”

    “The longer Congress waits,” Dougall said, “the worse the situation becomes. Talent will increasingly flock to countries like Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, China, and others that would welcome these workers. Where talent gravitates, much of the innovation, investment, and economic growth will follow suit.” via X, formerly Twitter

  • Kennedy: I’m the only candidate with a proven track record building consensus and passing significant and complex legislation. I will work with others to secure our borders with common-sense policies and address the issues we face at the border and with our immigration system. I will look to build coalitions and consensus through open dialogue and actionable solutions that secure our border, fix our broken immigration system, and keep our families safe.

    [Editor’s note: One of Kennedy’s opponents, John Dougall, served in the Utah House of Representatives from 2003-2012 and has been the Utah State Auditor for 11 years. Bird has experience as a mayor while Lawerence and Peay have no legislative experience.]

  • Lawrence: The nature of our border crisis has changed significantly in the last 4 years and it has created more bipartisan interest and support for securing our border than we have seen in the last 50 years. The flood of immigrants from every continent across the globe (not just Mexico) creates urgent National Security implications for our country. In addition, the Fentanyl Crisis in our country is becoming more acute every day and can only be addressed in connection with closing our Southern Border. I will lead the charge to implement a comprehensive border security system that will keep people out; and I will also support a complete overhaul to our asylum process that will stamp out the easy incentives that are attracting these illegal immigrants.
  • Peay: I will meet with the various members of Congress to build relationships that will allow the formation of coalitions that will be able to solve the immigration issues. I will work to bring people together so that reform can happen. While this issue has long fomented division, it is time to find unity to move it forward, even if that is only possible through incremental steps. 

What are your ideas for addressing long-term sustainability issues with social security? (Judy, Salt Lake)

  • Bird: There are several avenues that need to be considered when talking about balancing Social Security. With people living ever longer, increases in age requirements will most likely need to be considered. Unleashing America’s energy and economic potential, therefore creating more jobs, would increase revenue across the board, and should be a priority. A privatized program for younger generations should be made an option as well. Long term, I believe we need to transition all federal programs of this nature, back to the states, where they can be administered much, much more efficiently. Ultimately we need to make sure that all those who contributed to Social Security, receive their fair portion of those benefits.
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is based interviews with PoliticIt and Deseret News.

    “Social Security is the single biggest expenditure in the budget, and it’s supposed to be cut 18-20 percent in 8-10 years. I don’t think many congressmen and women understand that that is what the math says.” via PoliticIt

    Dougall’s idea is to create state sponsored retirement plans akin to 529 college savings plans. Here’s how he explained it to the Deseret News:

    Workers would then be able to invest that portion of their payroll tax into a state-sponsored investment fund “to get them a better, more secure retirement” while giving Democrats the government oversight they demand to protect all workers, Dougall said. Such a massive overhaul of Social Security would have to be phased in, with different age cohorts being allowed to allocate more or less of their payroll tax, Dougall said.

  • Kennedy: We need to initiate honest, open conversations in Congress across both sides of the aisle. As a doctor and legislator, I'm committed to laying this groundwork of integrity and working with others. Keeping options on the table allows us to explore common-sense solutions to cut costs and uphold our promises to seniors. It's time to combine real discussions with actionable solutions that quit kicking the can down the road and solve problems before it’s too late. 
  • Lawrence: Social security is on track to be insolvent by 2033 and many politicians refuse to show political courage in the form of willingness to tackle this important problem. I will lead efforts to 1) privatize social security (similar to 529 Savings Accounts in Education); and 2) will support efforts to make modifications to Social Security for those entering the program on the front end. These modifications might include raising the age qualification and means testing; but only for those entering the front of the program and not those who have been paying and investing into the program throughout their lifetime in good faith.
  • Peay: I think the first thing we need to do is push back the age for people to receive the full Social Security benefit. Social Security was enacted a long time ago and the demographics with respect to retirement age and life expectancy have greatly changed. If you are currently 50 or under, I think pushing back the benefit age by two years makes sense. I am currently 50. 

What is your stance on abortion? What is the role of the government in regulating abortion? (Kate, Salt Lake City)

  • Bird: I’m proudly pro-life. I do not believe that abortion should ever be used as a form of contraception. There are rare cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother where I think abortion could be considered. Those situations need to be handled very delicately and with compassion. We need to make sure that women found in those situations have the support they need, to deal with those difficult circumstances.

    My commitment extends beyond the unborn to include support for adoption reform, making it easier to find loving homes for children.

    Ultimately, I’m grateful for the overturning of Roe vs Wade, and believe that this issue is best handled at the state and local level, and should not be mandated, one way or another at the federal level.

  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is based on an interview with PoliticIt. In the interview, he argued that broadly, social issues “should be left to the state, and at the local level and to the people.”

    As a Utah state representative, Dougall voted on various abortion bills, including to extend the abortion waiting period from 24 to 72 hours and to allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions.

    He told PoliticIt, “I think we will end up with a California-style pro-abortion bill if pushed to the federal level. If you care about saving babies' lives then you need to keep pushing that down to the state level.”

  • Kennedy: I am proudly pro-life and believe this is, by and large, a state issue. 
  • Lawrence: I am strongly pro-life and will support any and all legislation to end and reduce abortion in our country. Now that Roe v. Wade has been repealed, I think it is important to let States take the lead in implementing abortion bans and restrictions. I also oppose the existence of abortion clinics; those abortions that, unfortunately, are happening should take place in a hospital and not be happening in isolated clinics that are as much about abortion advocacy as they are about women's total health.
  • Peay: I believe that abortion should be banned except in instances of rape, incest or danger to the mother's life. I believe that the various states should regulate abortion and not the federal government. 

What will you do to improve the national statistics on women’s issues such as pay disparities and the cost of daycare? (Rhonda, Iron County)

  • Bird: The success of women is central to the American experiment. Utah was one of the first states to allow women to vote. Whatever choice a woman decides to make in her life, whether it be working in the labor market, as an entrepreneur, or staying at home with children, they deserve our support. However, I view this as a State issue and not a federal issue. I would ensure that states have the liberty to address these things without federal overreach.

    People in Utah know far better than bureaucrats in Washington D.C., how women's issues should be addressed.

  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. KUER was unable to find public comments on women’s issues.
  • Kennedy: I will continue promoting economic policies that support job creation and support our families. By fostering a robust economy and reducing regulatory burdens, we can increase pay for Utahns and make childcare more accessible and affordable.
  • Lawrence: I believe in the importance of an equal playing field for men and women in the workplace; including salary and benefits. I will support laws and incentives that insure and promote that equal playing field. I also support federal tax incentives for private employers who provide childcare services as part of the workplace.
  • Peay: I believe issues like this are best left to the market to resolve. With that said, I will support legislation that prohibits discrimination against women. 

What will you do to support public education? (CJ, Salt Lake County)

  • Bird: I believe that education is the great equalizer in a free society. Knowledge is power and in order to truly live the American dream, one must be educated. President Biden has approached public education in a top down—hamfisted—manner. This administration's Department of Education policies and funding come with strings attached that offend the majority of Utahns. I would work to build a coalition to defund and dismantle the Department of Education and instead issue block grants to the States so that they can govern education as they see fit. Government closest to the people always works better than being ruled by unelected bureaucrats, in far off lands, who do not share the same values as we do in Utah.
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is based on statements on X, formerly Twitter.

    “Education policy really needs to be decided in the classroom, with parent and teachers working to meet the learning needs of each and every student. Too often federal and state policies fail to deliver on their intentions and fail to help students. I believe defunding and abolishing the U.S. Dept. of Education is a critical step for helping students and fixing deficit spending.” via X, formerly Twitter

  • Kennedy: Education is best managed at the state and local levels, where parents and communities can have the most impact. In Congress, I will advocate for reducing and eliminating federal overreach and increasing local control, empowering parents and supporting our dedicated teachers. During my time in our part-time state legislature, I have championed parental rights, advocated for better pay for teachers, and pushed for more investments directly into classrooms to benefit our students. My commitment is to ensure that parents always have a significant voice and choice in shaping their children’s education, tailoring our educational system to meet the diverse needs of all students in Utah.
  • Lawrence: In our current environment, the best way to support public education is to keep it focused on the basics--including reading, writing, math and science; and keep it free from imposed and politicized ideologies about sex, gender and critical race theory. Curriculum and standards should originate from the states and local districts; and I would support gradual defunding and elimination of the Federal Department of Education. 
  • Peay: I will work to make sure that the federal government stays out of setting standards and curriculum in Utah schools. I will work to require the federal government to fund the mandates that it puts on states such as IDEA, among others. 

How would you balance the issue of federal vs. state oversight of public lands? (Jacquelyn, Garfield County)

[Editor's note: A 2020 Congressional Research Service report says the percentage of land in Utah that is federally owned is 63.1%. However, this analysis predates the Biden administration’s restoration of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Utah leaders frequentlycite a higher percentage that includes state and federally-owned and managed land.]

  • Bird: Being the only candidate in this race from rural Utah, I love and rely on our public lands. The Biden administration is doing everything in its power to close off these lands, ranging from road closures, removal of livestock grazing, and banning mineral leases. This is a violation of Congress's multiple use mandate for the land and it is unsustainable. I believe that government closest to the people is most effective. I would support transferring management and ownership of these lands to the State of Utah, but ONLY on the condition that the lands remain as public lands and are not commercialized, and sold to private parties.
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. His campaign website lists “Unleash Utah’s energy resources and public lands” and “Battle federal overreach” as core issues without providing further details.
  • Kennedy: Utah lands should be in Utah hands. With over 65% of Utah's lands under federal control, I will advocate for reforms to the Antiquities Act that empower our local communities, farmers, and ranchers with greater decision-making authority. I support transferring appropriate federally controlled lands to local management, ensuring those closest to the land oversee its sustainable use and preservation. Additionally, I am committed to preventing foreign nations like China from owning U.S. farmland, essential manufacturing facilities, or any land near our military bases, safeguarding our national security and local interests.
  • Lawrence: The people who are closest to federal lands should have the most input and sovereignty over how those lands are used and enjoyed.Almost 70% of Utah land is controlled by the federal government and that balance must be substantially rebalanced. Utah will always be a more effective and efficient steward of our land than the federal government. 
  • Peay: I would require the federal government to follow the procedures that are set out in NEPA and FLPMA to ensure that local and state leaders have a proper say in decisions related to public lands consistent with their resource management plans. I would also work to streamline the EA/EIS process to allow projects on public lands to go forward in a reasonable and efficient manner that avoids years of needless litigation. 

What is your approach to environmental protection and energy production? (Rob, Salt Lake County)

[Editor’s note: For context, the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that renewable energy production and consumption reached record highs in 2022, of about 13%. Petroleum accounted for 36% of the U.S. energy consumption in 2022, while coal accounted for 10%. U.S. total annual energy production has exceeded total annual energy consumption since 2019.]

  • Bird: The U.S. already produces energy, cleaner and more efficiently, than any other nation in the world. Because of that, we need to produce more energy here in America—not less. In order to meet the rapidly rising energy demand, I would push legislation to advance a comprehensive—all inclusive-national energy plan, that is very specific so that it transcends the current pendulum swings that come from changing presidential administrations. We have and will continue to protect our environment, while growing our energy capabilities. 
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is derived from statements on X, formerly Twitter.

    “Americans demand affordable, reliable energy. I want consumers deciding their energy choices, not heavy-handed government bureaucrats who love picking winners and losers at your expense. Congress has given the E.P.A way too much authority.” via X, formerly Twitter

    “Americans expect affordable, reliable energy. Our energy consumption is a sign of our economic vitality. The Biden Administration continues to drive in the wrong direction, pushing for unaffordable, unreliable energy, especially with his demand to electrify America's cars, trucks, and appliances.” via X, formerly Twitter

  • Kennedy: We all value clean air and clean water and are committed to protecting our environment for future generations. At the same time, we require energy that is both affordable and reliable. My approach promotes ramping up domestic energy production to achieve not only energy independence but also to ensure America's energy dominance. This strategy balances environmental stewardship with economic growth. It’s important to recognize that major polluters like China and India continue to increase their emissions. When we limit our own energy production, we risk losing American jobs and affordable energy, inadvertently benefiting countries that are less concerned with our environment and allowing them to capitalize on economic opportunities at our expense. I support American energy and American jobs. I do not support shipping these jobs overseas where it does more harm to our environment and our economy. Other nations should be buying energy from us, not countries like China and Russia.

    [Editor’s note: For context, Utah’s energy sector represents 1% of all U.S. energy jobs. There was a 3.6% increase in energy jobs between 2021 and 2022, according to government data.]

  • Lawrence: I believe strongly in the goal of domestic energy independence and its implications for our economy and our national security. We currently face a major imbalance in our country where unproven environmental programs and restrictions are hindering our energy production and economic growth. I will work to roll back these inefficient and unproven regulations and restrictions.
  • Peay: I believe that we should let the market solve our energy issues. This includes the approval of a nuclear plant here in Utah and more technologically advanced energy solutions that are becoming available each year. This will allow consumers to choose which type of energy they want instead of it being dictated by the government. 

Do you support aid to Ukraine? What role does the U.S. have in international conflicts? (Janet, Weber County)

[Editor’s note: For context, the Council on Foreign Relations broke down how much U.S. aid is sent to Ukraine. It was last updated on May 9, 2024.]

  • Bird: Before I could support any further aid to Ukraine, I would want to see a detailed accounting of previous funds and munitions, how they have been utilized and how effective that has been in accomplishing our objectives. We need complete transparency and accountability of those resources. Up to this point I don’t feel we have a clear and unified strategy to win the conflict, and feel there is much more that can and should be done in the way of stronger sanctions on Russia, and requiring our European NATO allies to be a larger part of the solution, before we spend any more American taxpayer dollars.
  • Dougall: Dougall did not respond to the KUER candidate survey. The answer here is based on statements on X, formerly Twitter.

    “Historically, the Utah Senate has been overly deferential to China and the troubling agenda of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). We need strong leadership to confront China's economic, military, and cyber threats. We need to restore America's economic vitality and industrial base. We must leverage America's powerful natural resources. And we need to ensure our universities are not captured by those parroting CCP talking points.” via X, formerly Twitter

    “What makes me different? I’m not a Putin apologist. And I never will be. Putin is a brutal murder. Unfortunately, I learned we have too many of these apologists in today’s Republican Party. It’s not the US’s fault that Russia invaded Ukraine.” via X, formerly Twitter

    “We need fiscal sanity. The Biden Administration needs to stop its misguided student loan bailout and targeted assistance for Ukraine must address national security concerns and must fit within a responsible budget. Stop growing the unsustainable debt. And stop impairing the economy with high inflation.” via X, formerly Twitter

  • Kennedy: The situation in Ukraine is heartbreaking, and while no one desires war, we must be prudent with how we use American tax dollars. Sending blank checks abroad is not acceptable, especially when our own borders remain unsecured and American families are facing economic hardships. We can continue looking at offering loans to Ukraine, allowing them to purchase necessary supplies and aid directly from the U.S. This approach provides support while ensuring our resources are used effectively and are accountable to the American people.
  • Lawrence: I support the cause of freedom in Ukraine and have been inspired by the courage, sacrifice and military savvy of the Ukrainian people. I also consider Putin's Russia to be a serious geopolitical foe who seeks the destruction of American interests throughout the world. If you had told me 3 years ago that with less than 3% of our national defense budget we could decimate over half of Russia's military and significantly weaken their economy, I would have considered that an incredibly strong investment return for our American interests. We should not hold an open checkbook for any country but I think our investments to date in Ukraine have been well spent.
  • Peay: I support aid to Ukraine, especially with respect to weapons and ammunition. I think that the U.S. role in international conflicts depends on the conflict. With respect to Ukraine, where there are global security and economic issues involved, as well as a country fighting for its right to survive, the U.S. should provide weapons and ammunition but not send its own troops. 

KUER's Saige Miller, Elaine Clark, Elle Cowley and Jim Hill contributed to this guide along with independent fact checkers Courtney Denning, Elle Howell and Trisha Loveless.

This voter guide was produced in collaboration with PBS Utah and America Amplified.

Corrected: June 3, 2024 at 12:47 PM MDT
An earlier version of this guide misidentified Mike Kennedy as being a member of the Utah House of Representatives. Kennedy serves in the Utah Senate.
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