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Democratic Candidates For Utah's 1st Congressional District Participate In A Debate

Utah Debate Commission

The two democratic candidates for Utah’s 1st Congressional District participated in a debate held by the Utah Debate Commission on Monday. The two Republican candidates for the seat will debate Tuesday afternoon.  

Jamie Cheek has worked for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation for the past seven years as the district director in Logan, Brigham City and now Ogden. Darren Parry serves as the Chairman of the Shoshone Nation where he says he’s built bridges working with county, state and federal agencies. 

The two candidates were first asked about the police brutality protests occurring throughout the nation. 

Jamie Cheek said the bigger message from the protests is that over-policing is happening against black and brown bodies. Cheek called for national police reforms. 

“There needs to be comprehensive training about the way that we train police officers,” Cheek continued. “Far too often our officers are stuck in a position where they are forced to escalate a situation rather than deescalate it. I think these protests have shown us that when police officers take the message that's being told to them and they look for a solution rather than an end point of an arrest or putting someone into a police car that we actually have much better interactions that happen in the long term. Finally I think that we just need to make sure that we're paying attention to this conversation and that we give a voice and a platform to the individuals who want to speak about this. I was lucky enough to be able to go to the protest that was held here in Ogden. That was organized by Black Lives Matter and it was beautiful. We had over 2,000 people attend and the Ogden Police Department who just suffered their own loss was willing to be there and make sure that the people had the right to peacefully protest. That's how it should work, that people should be able to come together and have these conversations and show what matters to our communities.” 

Darren Parry said he’s been saddened by what he’s seen on TV.  

“The problem is clear, people of color have not had a seat at the table,” Parry said. “As a Native American leader I understand that and it’s disheartening. We need to have more community engagement. We need to invite everyone to the table and have a voice. Last night on the news, it was wonderful to see the Sheriff of Salt Lake County talk about what they're doing in their community to engage people of color. Then she said this, she said ‘we are so excited that for the first time we have one of our refugees graduate from the police Academy.’ And how important that will be that that refugee can serve in the community that they live. That people in those communities can see people that look like them. We need to make sure we engage them with community advisory boards. I serve on the Huntsman Cancer Community Institute board. Our first meeting i got to sit by the Reverend France Davis, and what a wonderful thing it was for me to be able to learn from that. Then more importantly, we need to concentrate on police training. Making sure they have ways to deescalate certain situations.” 

Utah’s 1st congressional district has had a republican representative for the past 40 years, Parry shares how he would flip the district. 

“I hate labels, I'm a conservative or I’m a liberal progressive,” Parry explained. “I think there's a vast majority of us that live in this middle space and that's where I've lived my whole life is in the middle space. For me it's an easy transition, as a Native American leader I've had to meet with groups that haven't had our best interest at heart and I've navigated those waters. Being able to negotiate settlement, negotiate peaceful means of how we can get along. I've been able to build bridges through everything I've done, through everything I've lived through to gain that support, because we are going to need a lot of the middle to Republican votes to win.” 

Cheek says her platform includes issues that matter to both republicans and democrats. 

“My platform includes issues that are affecting all Utahns,” Cheek continued. “I’m the one who has solutions for how we can try to fix them. In our district alone, we have over 50,000 uninsured Utahns and so talking about Health Care isn't just a Democratic issue, it's an all Utahns issue. When we talk about things like climate change and air pollution, we have two of the top 20 most polluted cities in America. That's an issue that matters whether you’re red or you’re blue and so talking to the individuals who care about the things that matter to Utahns and showing them that I’m willing to listen and willing to learn. I want to know what matters most to them and how it is that as their representative I can take those concerns to Washington and create real solution.” 

Parry shares what he hopes to accomplish while in office if elected. 

“I would like to tell them that we’ve moved the needle on climate change,” Parry said. “That we’ve moved the needle on how we treat the environment. That we have come up with an immigration policy that works, I believe it can be done. I believe there's people in Washington DC that want it done. I would point to those victories. I would point to how we can help people succeed. How we can give a voice to the marginalized.” 

Cheek says her main focus, if elected, is healthcare. 

“I think that we're going to make progress on health care,” Cheek explained. “I think this is the time and people want to talk about it and we need to see change. Everyone has someone who's been affected by a lapse in health care or been not able to seek the care that they need. Congress wants to do something different. We need to move that step forward. I know it won't necessarily be Medicare for All, but we can definitely make it more accessible and more affordable for all Utahns.”

You can find a link to the entire debate here. 

 Primary Election Date in Utah is June 30.

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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