1st District Democratic primary debate short on substance

Just one measly minute to discuss immigration, which is one of the most significant issues facing America in the 2018 election. The two Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to face incumbent Republican Rob Bishop in Utah’s 1st CD were given just 30-seconds each to address immigration during the Utah Debate Commission’s primary debate on Tuesday morning.

On top of that, there was no discussion of the Trump tax cuts passed by Congress last year or the ballooning federal deficit. Those topics were casualties of the Debate Commission’s punishing format, which gives candidates very little time to make their point.

During the hour-long televised debate, Kurt Wieland and Lee Castillo discussed several issues, including school violence, opioids, the gender pay gap, and national security. Neither man was able to give the topics the attention they deserved because of the restrictive time limits.

How did they break out on the issues?

School violence:

Castillo said he favored banning bump stocks, restricting extended magazine, and instituting a mandatory waiting period for gun purchases. He also proposed spending money on studying the causes of school violence. Weiland said we need to address the societal causes of school violence and recommended more school counselors.


Weiland said he wanted more treatment options for those who are addicted to opiates and measures to stem the flow of the drugs. Castillo said he would advocate for more treatment options. 


Both came out in favor of medical cannabis as an effective alternative to more addictive painkillers. Weiland said his experience as an LDS missionary in England is behind his belief that the U.S. should move to a single-payer healthcare system.

Criminal justice reform:

This was one of the first real policy differences between the two men. Castillo said the system was biased toward minority members of society who are targeted because of their race. Weiland said he did not believe the system is racist because it has “worked for over 200 years.” Castillo shot back that he has experienced that bias firsthand. “I’ve been targeted. I live it.”

Both men said they favored the elimination of the death penalty.

The future of Hill Air Force Base:

It’s no secret that Hill AFB is an economic powerhouse for northern Utah. Weiland said his experience in the military would be an asset if Hill ever came under the threat of closure, while Castillo said he wasn’t worried that Hill would be threatened anytime soon. Weiland pounced on that statement saying, “I never thought Fort Ord in California would close, but it did.”

Public lands:

Castillo and Weiland hammered Rep. Bishop for his part in the reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Weiland said tourism is the better use of public lands in Utah instead of energy extraction, while Castillo noted the reduction of public lands is hurting Utah’s economy.

It took 23 minutes for either man to bring up their Republican opponent, Rep. Rob Bishop. The first mention of President Donald Trump came after 28 minutes, after a reference to the Bull Moose Party. President Ronald Reagan didn’t get a name check until 38 minutes had passed.

The immigration question was hastily tacked on at the end, leading to a scattershot attempt to distill a complex issue down to half a minute. No mention of DACA, only a passing reference to border security, a vague reference to the separation of families trying to cross the border. Given the wholly insufficient discussion, they shouldn’t have bothered.