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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian King thinks Utahns ‘deserve better’

By Andrew Christiansen | Moab Times-Independent

ST. GEORGE — In a bid to offer an alternative voice in Utah’s political landscape, former Utah House Minority Leader Brian King is running for governor, emphasizing the importance of bipartisan collaboration and pragmatic solutions.

If successful, King would be the first Democrat elected governor in Utah in nearly 40 years.

Although he believes Utah has experienced a lot of positive economic growth and development since the last time there was a Democrat governor in 1985, King believes there’s a need for a more balanced approach to Utah government.

“We’re much better off when we have two healthy, robust systems competing against each other, bringing the best of both perspectives to the table,” King said.

King, who served in the Utah House for 16 years, launched his gubernatorial run last December.

Drawing from his experience as a Democrat in the supermajority Republican Utah Legislature, King emphasized the urgency for a new direction in the state’s politics.

“You’re just not going to be as effective, as wise in how you address problems when you only take one side of the solutions offered by one political party rather than mixing the best, the most creative, the most thoughtful approaches based on a variety of life experiences from all sorts of Utahns,” King said.

Priority issues

He also noted that there are many issues up on the hill that he doesn’t believe need to be political, as opposed to what he refers to as “extreme cultural issues,” such as the recent transgender bathroom ban bill and book banning.

“Utahns want us addressing the real problems that they have … affordability of housing, making sure that we have clean air … having enough water to do the things that we need to do in terms of accommodating future growth,” King said.

King said that he has many issues that would be a priority if he were elected, but some include affordable housing, saving the shrinking Great Salt Lake, gun safety, reproductive health and funding for education.

He said he’s “very concerned” that the Legislature is getting more aggressive with “gutting the funding for public education.”

On the November 2024 ballot, Utah voters will decide whether or not to remove restrictions on the uses of income tax under a resolution.

The Utah Constitution currently requires that income tax revenue must be allocated to public education, state-supported colleges and universities and programs for children and people with disabilities. However, the proposed constitutional amendment aims to eliminate these restrictions.

“That’s a terrible amendment to the Constitution, I believe,” King said.

King emphasized that maintaining reproductive rights is something he cares about and added that many Utah legislators’ views on abortion feel “completely opposed” to valuing Utah families’ ability to make personal decisions.

 “Talk about a betrayal of family values – the idea that we will dictate when decisions are made about reproductive choices that are better left to a woman and her partner and the doctor involved in that situation,” King said.

Grand County

King, a lifelong Utahn, said he wished the legislative seats in and near Grand County were more accurately representative since there is a Democratic-controlled county council.

“What is well represented are the rural votes and the conservative lawmakers who are very much in favor of controlling private lands and very hostile to state or county or restrictions that come from governmental entities on private developers,” he said.

King added that he thinks there are too many legislators who control local governments, whether it’s Grand County, specifically Moab or some agencies within the state of Utah itself.

“People in Moab and people in Grand County have a better sense of the specific problems and issues that need to be addressed, and how best to address them than we do at the state Legislature,” King said.

Collaboration and pragmatism

King noted that his legislative track record of passing dozens of bills in the minority party demonstrates his ability to collaborate across party lines, something he credits to the importance of personal relationships and pragmatic solutions.

“The reality is there are a lot of pragmatists, reasonable people and good people in the Utah State Legislature,” he said. “I’ve built strong relationships with many Republicans, even those who are very conservative … there are many ways to find common ground.”

In the 16 years King has been a representative, half of which as minority house leader, King said that working with a supermajority Republican Legislature has become more difficult.

“I think the leader of today’s Republican Party over the last nine years has made it very clear to [his party] that you should and can come out with your worst impulses at times and give voice to them.”

King said that can include thoughts that people even 15 to 20 years ago, he thought, would be ashamed of “whether it’s racial, whether it’s dogmatic, whether it’s mean-spirited, whether it is just revealing of terrible traits because it pushes fear-based or envy-based or power-based [rhetoric].”

He added that he thinks the national identity of the Republican party has impacted what type of people are elected to the Legislature now, some of which are more difficult to work with.

“We’ve lost some very level-headed, reasonable [and] moderate Republicans,” he said.

As for Gov. Cox’s role in this dynamic, King referenced Cox’s ideology of “disagreeing better,” arguing that that shouldn’t mean no disagreement at all or rolling over to whatever the most extreme voices in the Legislature say.”

“Those extreme and devoted individuals and voices in the Legislature have been successful, more so than ever, in passing bills that are not good for the people of the State of Utah,” said King.

Out of the record-breaking 591 passed bills in this year’s Legislative Session, Cox vetoed 7, mostly because he said the legislation was unnecessary, noting “sometimes there are bills that could be phone calls.”

King said if elected as governor he would be more “proactive and protective of the rights of Utahns” than Cox has been and foster more collaboration and practical solutions.

“We understand taking the best of different perspectives is the best way moving forward, for the better of the people in the state of Utah,” King said. “And that’s what we’re bringing, in terms of a future vision for people in Utah, one that actually reflects their values and I think people are ready to receive that.”

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