GOP gathers for Lincoln Day dinner
By Doug Lowe
EPHRAIM—For devoted Republican Party members across Sanpete County, the Lincoln Day Dinner offered an opportunity to see and hear some 14 candidates running for state and national offices.
A large well-dressed audience attended the event last Thursday in the Snow College Greenwood Center.
With an average of six to eight people at each of 20 attractively-decorated tables, the crowd approached or even exceeded 200 in total. And, long before the event’s official beginning at 6:30 p.m. lots of hand shaking and politicking was going on.
The large room’s periphery was lined with 14 literature tables and booths where interested attendees were given all kinds of free handouts: colorful brochures, bright bumper stickers, embossed ball point pens and T-shirts bearing the candidate’s name.
Steve Clark, the evening’s master of ceremonies and chairman of the Sanpete Republican Party, welcomed the crowd and made a joke about losing his cumber bun and being “the only one who came tonight wearing a tux.”
After especially welcoming to all the candidates, Clark explained that each would have a brief turn at the microphone to make their case. And that speaking order for each group of candidates had been determined in a random drawing, “to avoid any hint of favoritism,”
Clark first thanked the Lincoln Day Dinner Committee members Roy Drew, Sharon Pritchett Richards, Lee Richards and Stacy Lyon; and, acknowledged the help of David Garff, the party’s vice chair, and Lu Ann Greenwell, the party’s secretary.
The first candidate to speak was Thomas Wright, who cited his experience leading the state Republican Party and creating a successful business, as part of his qualifications to become Utah’s next governor.
Wanting government to become “a help, not a hindrance,” Wright promised to apply business principles to improving educational funding, freeing teachers from oppressive standardized tests, and addressing “the lack of 50,000 affordable housing units.”
Spencer Cox’s campaign was next on the agenda, and speaking for the absent candidate was his wife Abby Cox. After talking about visiting the entire state with her husband on the campaign trail, she spoke of their deep Sanpete County roots, saying, “We have our little piece of heaven here.”
Another spokeswoman came next to the microphone. Provo’s current mayor and former school board member, Michelle Kaufusi, recently chosen by Huntsman as his gubernatorial running mate, cited Huntsman’s new qualification for a job he already fulfilled admirably. According to Kaufusi, Huntsman’s vast experience provided his with qualifications unmatched by any of the other governorship hopefuls.
Greg Hughes spoke of his legislative leadership and of “standing strong” in resisting pressure from citizens calling for expand federally funded health care for impoverished Utahans because the state would eventually end up paying the bill.
When Hughes spoke proudly of being an early and constant support of Donald Trump both as a candidate and as the president, the crowd responded with loud applause.
Jeff Burningham’s spokesman and friend, State Auditor John Dougall, explained the candidate’s absence as a sign his priorities were in proper order: putting family before political ambition by cheering for his son during a semifinal game of the state’s high school basketball tournament.
As another successful real estate executive, Burningham’s campaign echoed Wright’s in the claiming that Utah would by choosing its next top leader from the field of business rather than politics.
Political newcomers, Sanpete native Carson Jorgensen, and St. George resident Mary Burkett, both spoke of their respective campaigns to represent Utah’s 2nd district in the U.S. House.
Following Jorgensen and Burkett, a spokesman for the incumbent, Chris Stewart, made the case for re-electing the a former Air Force pilot (without mentioning rumors that Stewart was being considered as possibly the Trump administration’s next Secretary of the Air Force).
Two candidates for the District 58 seat in Utah’s House of Representatives, Clinton Painter, from Juab County, and Steven Lund, a Sanpete native son, both spoke of their qualifications.
Derrin Owens has represented Juab and Sanpete since first appointed to fill the District 58 seat in 2015. A former high school counsel in Nephi, Owens was first to announce his candidacy for the Utah Senate District 24 seat being vacated by Ralph Okerlund.
Kim Coleman and Kathleen Anderson both spoke of their campaigns to replace Ben McAdams, the only Democratic member of Utah’s congressional delegation, and retake the 4th U.S. house district, formerly held by Mia Love, for the Republican Party. A similar desire, on the part of Burgess Owens, was discussed by his spokesperson, Derrin Owens (no relation).
Throughout all the speech making, some traditional Republican themes like the need to limit big government, preserve individual liberty and keeping a free market economy were spoken of frequently; other long-time Republican Party principles—like fiscal conservatism and the importance of balancing the budget—received scant attention.
Mentioned most of all were several relatively new priorities in the Republican Party: preserving second amendment rights, protecting speech and religion, reforming our nation’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts and opposing any form of socialism as equivalent to communism.
The evening’s last speaker, Klaudia Stan-Nielson, was born in Romania and grew up under the Communist Party’s regime there. After immigrating to the U.S. as a young adult, Mrs. Stan-Nielson became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Speaking of the horrors she witnessed in a Communist police state, she equates socialism with communism, and has become a sought-after speaker for Republican Party events. In response, the Lincoln Day Dinner gathering at Snow College, greeted the end of her speech with enthusiastic applause.