Summit and Wasatch County voters are looking ahead to the June 30 primary to decide the final matchups for many state and local races in November’s general election. Utah’s hotly-contested House District 54 is up for grabs this year and two Republicans hope to secure their party’s nomination next week.
Mike Kohler and Randy Favero both want to be the Republican candidate for Utah House District 54. The district covers Wasatch County and the Park City municipal area.
The current representative, Tim Quinn, is stepping down at the end of this year. Quinn is a Republican and narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Megan Miller by less than 200 votes in 2018. Miller will be the Democratic candidate again this year.
Kohler is a former Wasatch County Councilmember and a lifelong Midway resident while Favero has been a Summit County resident for the past 18 years. He is a native of Weber County and spent his career in the tech industry.
Both candidates point to their experience as what makes them qualified to run for office. Kohler comes from a dairy farming background and in addition to his time in local government, has also worked as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill for over 15 years for the dairy industry in Utah.
“I’ve just been involved in politics enough to know that a good representative can make a big difference," Kohler said. "The state legislature has a lot of power, they can affect our lives and we need a good representative in there to represent your needs. I think I have the experience to do that.”
In contrast, Favero said that his status as a political outsider in Utah makes him uniquely suited for the job when combined with his years working for businesses like IBM and Netscape, as well as several startup ventures.
“The fact that I have no agenda, no conflicts of interest, no obligations to anybody other than the residents and the fact that I am a facts and data guy," said Favero. "I’m driven by ‘let’s make the best decisions based on facts and the data’ and I apply that broad experience that I mentioned and I think it gives me the skill base to add, let’s call it a fresh perspective to the Utah State Legislature.”
The district covers all of Wasatch County and Kohler said that gives him an advantage given he has spent his entire life in the Heber Valley.
“I’ve lived here and been part of the community forever, both in the youth and other groups or I’ve been in local government making decisions regarding land use and zoning and planning and all that has given me the experience that I think will lend itself to me being a bit more close to the people here,” he said.
Favero said the fact he resides in the Summit County part of the district presented an initial obstacle for his campaign to overcome before entering the state Republican convention in April.
“When I first got in the race, there was counsel that said Wasatch tends to vote territorially and that you don’t have a prayer," he explained. "Well, in the convention, we proved differently. Speaking to many of the delegates, they were looking for a change. They were looking for something other than the ‘old guard,’ if you will.”
At the convention, Favero was able to secure enough delegates to force a primary with Kohler and says Park City needs more representation at the state level.
Favero said the main issues he will be focusing on if he makes it to Capitol Hill will be sustainable economic development following the COVID-19 pandemic and improving student outcomes in education. He sees these two issues as one in the same.
“Figuring out how we improve student outcomes and build ourselves a workforce that’s going to carry us into the next 15, 20, 25 years, that’s absolutely essential for us,” he said.
Kohler also looks to focus on education but issues like agriculture and providing more transparency to the overhaul of the state’s tax system are also high on his list of priorities.
“Most of us know and have watched the legislature the last couple of sessions grapple with the new taxes and taxing system they were putting together," Kohler added. "I think that can have a major effect on not only us personally as homeowners and residents but certainly the business community. But there are some things that I think need to be taken care of to make this transition to a new system a lot more business friendly. I’ve been working with agriculture and water for years. Everybody knows how important water is. I know water ownership and use top to bottom.”
This year’s primary elections will be done through the mail. Voters will be able to cast their mail-in ballots until June 30th.