SALT LAKE CITY — Republican elected officials and political candidates did more to reinforce core common objectives than point out any differences in presentations at the annual Utah Eagle Forum convention on Saturday.
The key issues: reducing the federal budget deficit, securing borders and shifting immigration reform to the federal government, bolstering states' rights as outlined by the 10th Amendment and reducing Utah's dependence on federal funds.
The biggest disagreement among the Republicans in attendance might have been which elected officials have the best chance of effecting change in Washington.
"Governors are in the best position to do this," gubernatorial candidate Ken Sumsion said of states' battles with the federal government. He was joined in a question-and-answer session with fellow Republican candidates David Kirkham and Morgan Philpot.
Gov. Gary Herbert was not part of the afternoon Q-and-A but spoke earlier in the day. His comment recently that Utah needs to get off "federal crack" was referred to directly and indirectly by his in-party challengers.
"When the bailouts happened in 2008, I realized that not all Republicans are the same," said Kirkham, who organized the tea party in Utah two years ago. Sumsion said state sovereignty will increase when the state stops taking federal money. "There is one word I want to add to all of this," Philpot added, "nullification." Philpot said that as governor he would not accept "Obama-care" in Utah.
The three candidates said the strings attached to programs with federal funding take away states' sovereignty. They pointed to the Common Core State Standards initiative as a case in point. Philpot called it a "wolf in sheep's clothing." Kirkham and Sumsion said standards within Common Core might be laudable as long as they are promoted by parents, not the federal government.
And even though a politician can turn the answer to a yes-or-no question into an essay, positions among the candidates were aligned so well they were satisfied with a one-word answer: All three gubernatorial candidates said they oppose replacing the Electoral College with a national popular vote. They oppose the state holding another constitutional convention.
The three also said they would actively fight to regain state control of federal land in Utah.
Four Republican candidate for Utah's new 4th Congressional District were also part of the convention's Q-and-A lineup: Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem; attorney Jay Cobb; and former state Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, who just resigned from the Legislature to campaign.
Cobb was a "probably not" to questions about whether the candidates would vote to increase the federal debt limit and whether they would support a constitutional convention in the state, while the others were a straight "no." None of the candidates support displacing the Electoral College with a national popular vote, and all said they would work to cut the size and reach of the federal government.
Wimmer said that next week he will announce a plan to reduce $2 trillion from the federal government. Sandstrom said his top budget-cutting priority would be eliminating the departments of Energy and Education. Love said she would work to remove regulations and the reach of federal health care that limit business growth and private enterprise. Cobb said the current economic crisis brings opportunity and he would work to shrink the size and reach of the federal government.