Both Republican Blake Moore and Democrat Darren Parry — who face each other in the 1st Congressional District race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Rob Bishop — said Tuesday that they essentially see the same solution to bridge the widening partisan divide in Washington.
It is listening, and truly seeking common ground.
“If we can put 100 people in the room from across the political spectrum, and if they can come together and find something that you all agree on, you should be able to build from there,” said Moore, 40, a management adviser for the Cicero consulting company.
“I think people are coming in from their own caucuses,” he said, “with something they just expect the other side to succumb to, and that’s just not going to work.”
Parry, 60, former chairman of the Northwest Band of the Shoshone tribe, said he’s negotiated for the tribe for years with government officials who he says rarely had its interests at heart. But he said he found success by working “in such a way that’s not confrontational, that gives people the opportunity to speak their mind without being belittled or put down.”
He said partisanship is killing Congress and the country. The way to overcome it is “listening, having a very nonconfrontational point of view, and in really trying to see somebody else’s point of view.”
They made the comments in a virtual candidate forum on Tuesday sponsored by the Salt Lake Chamber, which focused largely on business topics. Each were asked the same questions but appeared separately for a half-hour each, with Moore facing questions first followed later by Parry.
Some of the key areas they addressed:
• Immigration. Parry supported widening the gate for legal immigration, but Moore suggested targeting that only for people like needed agriculture and service workers.
“I’m not a border wall person,” Parry said, adding that people should imagine what the county would look like if his Indian ancestors had built a wall when Columbus arrived. “I would be here, and my family would be here, but nobody else would be here.”
Moore suggested trying to solve bite-size immigration issues instead of reforming the entire system, especially focusing on cutting bureaucratic burdens that make it tougher to attract international workers needed by Utah agriculture and hospitality industries. “It’s overly burdensome.”
• Helping minorities advance. Moore said Utah’s strong economy serves as a magnet, helping to make Utah’s population more diverse. He said when was in charge of recruiting at Cicero, he found that the way to build diversity in leadership positions is “opening up the funnel” to all groups, “and our companies need to always make sure that we embrace that.”
Parry said the tribe he represented is “one of the marginalized groups” in Utah. “Give us a voice, because that’s what really diverse communities want. They want a seat at the table, and they want to have a voice,” and will bring new views and solutions to many types of problems.
He added that it could heal some of the nation’s civil unrest, noting that Martin Luther King “said riots are the voice of the unheard.”
• Health care. Parry supports continuing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, with tweaks.
“Two hundred thousand more Utahns have health care today because of it,” he said. “Until somebody can show me an alternative, then then I think that’s the way to go. But can we fix it a little bit better? Absolutely.”
Moore said the way to hold down health care costs would be to makes medical costs more transparent and easy to compare. “Consumers having that power will create more affordability in the market. I think that’s the key thing.”
The forum did not discuss some of the biggest challenges the candidates face in the race.
For example, Parry’s ex-wife has said he lied about regularly paying child support for their seven children, and a daughter publicly said that Parry abandoned the family after he had several affairs.
Meanwhile, Moore has been attacked for not living in the 1st District, and he faces questions about hard-to-verify claims that he was a foreign service officer for years in Asia.
His online resume initially showed that he worked for the State Department for only one year. During the years that he claimed to be a foreign service officer in Asia, his online resume initially said he lived in Singapore working for a company called Docberry, a Utah-based company that state records show he formed himself.
Moore has said he was doing sensitive work for the government that forced vagueness on his resume. He has offered off-the-record explanations, but agencies that he said hired him have so far declined to confirm or deny any such sensitive work for them.
The two candidates will also face each other Thursday at 6 p.m. in a debate sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission. It is scheduled to be broadcast live on most local television stations, and online at utahdebatecommission.org.