Kennedy emphasizes ‘depth and
breadth of connections’ to Utah
By Suzanne Dean
Utah Rep. Mike Kennedy, a physician who is challenging Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, says he’s a fan of logging, of water reclamation and of the state beginning to manage federal lands within its border.
The Messenger conducted a phone interview on Monday with Kennedy, a family physician who lives in Alpine, Utah County, and who is serving his third term in the Utah Legislature.
Kennedy surprised a lot of people when he got more votes than Romney in the Republican State Convention. But Romney is leading Kennedy in recent polls.
During his campaign, Kennedy has stressed what he described as “the depth and breadth of my connections to the state,” something, he says Romney doesn’t offer.
“I’m a regular person,” he said in the Messenger interview. “I’ve been on welfare, I’m from a divorced family of seven. I know what it’s like to press through difficulty. I understand regular people and what they’re dealing with.”
Kennedy said he was acquainted with instances in Washington state where forests were clear cut, leaving nothing but barren ground. That’s irresponsible, he said.
But sustainable logging is simply “responsible use of the land. The earth is meant to be used.” He talked about “horrible conflagrations” in which overgrown trees become matchsticks.
He said he had heard even trees infested by the bark beetle can be used for lumber. “If those could be logged, it would reduce forest fire potential and offer economic benefits,” he said.
As a legislator, he is familiar with the Narrows Project, he said. The foresight of people 30 or 50 years ago to manage and store water is one of the things “that has put this state into a position where we are functioning, and not only functioning, but thriving.
“If we look 50 years into the future, even 10 to 15 years,” he said, “we have to continue the same efforts” or progress will stop.
Referring to the various bureaucratic approvals the Narrows has received, and the Army Corps of Engineers refusal to grant the final permit, Kennedy said, “How many times do I have to step forward and ask mother? As a U.S. senator, I would fight vigorously to make sure progress was not stunted based on the interests of one entity.”
Regarding potential state takeover of the millions of acres of federal land in Utah, Kennedy said, “There are many voices to be considered. I have been an advocate for at least management.
“If the federal government turned over management of certain lands to the state for a 10-year period, and saw that the state not only took excellent care of the land, but was able to extract some resources that helped the local economy, there’s the potential of a win, win, win all around.”
Kennedy said the federal government can help family farms by conducting research on how to make them more viable. If regulations are impeding small farms, he said, he would try to get those out of the way.
“I want to be a hands-on senator. I will talk to people around the state and ask them, ‘What’s going on? What do you need? so we can break down barriers” to success.
He said the immigration system is “a mess.” But he said “separating parents from their children is very disturbing to me.”
“I don’t think any of us know what is going on,” he added. “Is the adult actually the parent of the child? Are they bringing children to get deferential treatment?”
Kennedy was born in Eat Lansing, Mich., the second of seven children. He grew up in Ypsilanti, Mich.
In his teens, his parents divorced, and his father left the household. “We didn’t have he money for one place, let alone two,” he said. That’s when his mother had to turn to public and church assistance.
He cut lawns, bussed tables and drove a United Parcel Service truck.
He served an LDS mission in Arizona, and after his mission, went to BYU, where he got his bachelor’s degree.
He went to medical school at MichiganStateUniversity, located in East Lansing where he was born, and did his residency in Midland, Mich.
In 2001, he came back to Utah with his family, which now includes eight children. He later entered the BYU law school and in 2007 got his juris doctor on top of his medical degree.
“I’m 49,” he says. “I done a number of things to prepare myself. It seemed like the time to offer my services to the good people of Utah.”