Utah’s four Republican candidates for governor faced off Tuesday night in what could be their final debate before the June 30 primary. Each candidate criticized the state for accepting federal funds.
Responding to a question about fighting Obamacare in the state, Former Utah Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright promised to work to undo regulations that come with the Affordable Care Act.
“We need to be compassionate conservatives,” Wright said. “We need to make sure that our citizens are well taken care of. We need to make sure that we fight back and say we need a free market, competitive environment in our health care.”
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. suggested that instead of federal Obamacare, the state build its own insurance marketplace.
“That gives us more accessible, affordable and portable insurance policies that we can use going forward because the insurance market ain't working for people,” Huntsman said.
Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes warned about the dangers of accepting any federal funds.
“Every time we take those federal funds, be it through health care and Obamacare expansion, education … it does not end well,” Hughes said. “They have leverage over us as a state. It does not allow your locally elected legislature and governor to build a state budget that reflects the priorities of the people of Utah.”
Instead of taking federal money, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox suggested the federal government issue block grants to the states.
“Let us design what works in our state because our state is very different than other states,” Cox said. “There are things that we do better.”
The voter registration deadline for the primary is June 19. A recent poll gave Huntsman a narrow edge over Cox in the race for the governor’s seat.
The winner will face off against Democrat Chris Peterson.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson