Few Differences Emerge in Democratic Gubernatorial Debate

button1Monday’s Democratic gubernatorial debate between Mike Weinholtz and Vaughn Cook was devoid of fireworks, mostly because of the stilted broadcast format that didn’t do either man any favors. 

Cook showed a greater grasp on many policy issues than did Weinholtz. When moderator Doug Wright asked both men for their proposals to deal with Utah’s problematic air quality, only Cook offered specifics.
“Building codes have not kept up,” said Cook. “We need a change in the law. If that happens, we will get new buildings that are more ecologically responsible.” 
Cook also slammed the legislature’s decision to spend millions on a port in California to ship coal to China instead of using that money to help develop cleaner energy sources.
Weinholtz used the opportunity to take a shot at the legislature. 
“We need to get serious about the issue,” he said. “Politicians always have a qualifier when they talk about air quality. They say any change can’t come at the expense of jobs. The two are not mutually exclusive.”
The awkward debate format was a lot like a professional football game with very little action and a lot of standing around between plays. Seemingly, there were more commercial breaks than actual debate time. Throughout the live debate, the candidates were given a truncated time to discuss only two questions before it was time to hear more commercials. 
The only real disagreement between Cook and Weniholtz was over the issue of raising the minimum wage. Weinholtz was for boosting the minimum wage while Cook was less enthusiastic.
“Far too many Utahns are struggling to get by,” said Weinholtz. “The legislature passed a law saying Utah’s minimum wage cannot exceed the federal government’s. How does that help everyday Utahns?”
Cook was worried about how raising the minimum wage might have a detrimental effect on business, noting that when he first started his company, he couldn’t afford a $15 per hour minimum.
“I’m for paying people more, but we have to have policies that are sensitive to entrepreneurs and won’t put them out of business. We need a responsible path.”
Not surprisingly, the two candidates voiced support for expanding Medicaid and slammed lawmakers for putting politics ahead of needy Utahns who need coverage. 
The pair teed off on Utah’s rock bottom education funding, agreeing that lawmakers need to do more to boost funding for schools. They also agreed that the fight to take control of public lands in Utah is a fool’s errand, with the worry that those lands would be sold off for short term gain.
One refrain that kept coming back from both Cook and Weinholtz was the need to elect more Democrats in Utah. Both agreed that the state should eliminate the straight-party voting option on the ballot. Weinholtz also said it’s going to take communication so that Utah voters realize that Democrats have the same values as them.
“We need to put people first and give them a voice. That will energize them, so they realize Democrats are more in line with their views.”
Winning in November will be a Herculean task for whichever man emerges as the Democratic nominee. A recent UtahPolicy.com survey finds both Cook and Weinholtz would lose to incumbent Gary Herbert by 40-points.
Both men announced their potential running mates on Monday. Cook named Jan Garbett, who is the spouse of real estate developer Bryson Garbett as his Lt. Governor nominee. Weinholtz tapped Kim Bowman, who was set to face Catherine Kanter in a primary for Salt Lake County Council.