LEHI — With days to go before the Republican Party's nominating convention, 11 Republican candidates hoping to fill Rep. Jason Chaffetz's 3rd District seat enjoyed an opportunity to explain their candidacy and political stances at a town hall discussion Wednesday night.
While many agreed on topics like balancing the national budget and foreign policy, the candidates differed in their approaches to adapting the party to reach a younger audience. The town hall, hosted by members of the Young Republicans and College Republicans, oftentimes focused on growing local technology along Utah's "Silicon Slopes."
"I love what's going on in this valley and in Provo with the high-tech community," said Provo Mayor John Curtis, who was officially certified to be on the primary ballot through signature petitions.
Curtis said that the entrepreneurship of the area set an example for reforming government, adding that government could be fixed through innovation and setting a more hopeful tone in Washington.
The debate of state and federal government carried on with a number of the candidates expressing their ideas about adding congressional term limits and checks to federal control.
"We are running an excellent health care system into the ground through ridiculous and excessive government regulation," said Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem.
Daw said that in his experience with Utah lawmaking, his efforts at crafting reform often saw good ideas stopped short when they met up against federal laws prohibiting states from implementing those reforms.
"We need to push health care decisions back to the individual," Daw said.
Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, spoke similarly of a need to oppose mandates from the federal government, specifically noting her opposition to the 2002 No Child Left Behind act.
"It was promoted by a wonderful man, a Republican president, but it's a bad bill," Dayton said. "The national media was making fun of our state for pushing back against the federal government, but we need to push back against them."
Dayton's colleague, Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, said the people elected to Congress need to effectively send as much of the power that they have as a representative back to the state they come from, adding that she hopes to leave Washington with less power than it has now.
Many of the candidates channeled former President Ronald Reagan as they spoke about reforming a Republican Party that they feel has become increasingly divided.
"Ronald Reagan was known as the Great Communicator because he had a vision for immigration reform, for tax reform," said Paul Fife. "The true problem with Washington is that conservatives are not able to communicate their vision of conservatism to the common voter."
Fife said that while the party has many fighters, it has no communicators and is in need of someone who can create solutions rather than merely resist their Democratic opponents.
Former state lawmaker Chris Herrod, another candidate of the race, said the person to replace Chaffetz needs to help Congress refocus on policy rather than partisan attacks.
Herrod said he has experience with Russian diplomacy and noted the current anxiety about Russia is allowing its leader, Vladimir Putin, to "run circles" around the United States by distracting policymakers from their immediate issues.
"Somebody needs to go back to Washington and tell Congress to quit being distracted and get to work," Herrod said.
Other candidates participating included Debbie Aldrich, Damian Kidd, Keith Kuder, Stewart Peay and Shayne Row.
Tanner Ainge, who like Curtis is bypassing the convention and is certified through signatures to be on the primary ballot, did not attend nor did candidate Mike Leavitt of Provo.
The GOP primary on Aug. 15 will come down to the candidate chosen at Saturday's nominating convention and Curtis and Ainge.