Congressional candidates, Republican Rep. John Curtis and Democrat James Singer, debated in front of a live audience Oct. 23 for Utah’s Congressional 3rd District seat in the Sorensen Center’s Grande Ballroom.
The debate, which consisted of a UVU student panel, was moderated by David Magelby, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University, and was hosted by the Utah Debate Commission to educate voters about viable candidates and their issue positions.
Issue positions varied widely throughout the debate as prior and audience-submitted questions touched on topics important to voters. Topics included immigration, sexual harassment and the national deficit. Utah specific issues strong on voters’ minds were also discussed such as opioid drug use, the legalization of marijuana and gun violence.
Addressing the current opioid epidemic in Utah, Curtis cited his own house bill H.R. 5646 – nicknamed “the POPPY Study Act”, which funds the research of opioid abuse in pregnant women and is due to be signed into law tomorrow by President Trump as one of his “common-sense” solutions to combat problems Utahns face here at home.
According to Curtis’ website on the bill, six Utahns die every week of an opioid overdose while the state also doubles the number of opioids prescribed to women during pregnancy compared to the nation’s average of one in five.
While agreeing with Curtis on the importance of addressing opioid drug use in Utah, Singer voiced his position on the importance of legalizing a different drug on the federal level – the decriminalization of marijuana.
“We need to legalize medical [and recreational] cannabis at the federal level,” said Singer.
Singer’s main convictions stem from a large number of federal incarcerations over laws convicting users of drugs such as marijuana. Singer’s hope is to release many of those incarcerated, relieving a struggling prison system and permitting those, he believes, who’ve committed no real wrong from rejoining society.
Utah residents will vote on the legalization of medicinal marijuana with the Proposition 2 vote that will take place as part of the state’s general election Nov. 6.
According to Unified FBI Statistics reported by The Washington Post, nearly 600,000 people were arrested in 2016 for simple marijuana possession. Violent crimes account for the majority of incarcerations in the United States.
In the wake of the murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey in an on-campus shooting, Courtney Evans, a junior studying political philosophy and law, asked the candidates for their proposals on student safety amongst gun violence at schools.
“As a UVU student, I worry about my safety, and the safety of other students, in the event of a school shooting,” said Evans. “What is your vision for providing schools with the necessary security measures, so they are able to adequately protect their students?”
Both candidates agreed that common-sense gun reform was necessary to help protect students while also being in-line with the constitutional, legal-mandate of the Second Amendment.
Singer hopes to eliminate “the kinds of guns that don’t belong in the hands of normal civilians” such as assault rifles while Curtis favors a bill, co-sponsored by himself, that would provide “red-alerts notifications” for states on possible shooters by funding a framework to be put into place to notify them.
Curtis, prior to public office, worked for Provo-based company Action Target that builds custom shooting ranges and tactical targets for military and special forces groups.
Utah General Elections for the House seat will be held Nov. 6.