Five Republicans vie for Utah’s empty seat in Congress. Here’s their views on abortion, immigration and water.

Republicans JR Bird, John Dougall, Mike Kennedy, Case Lawrence and Stewart Peay are each running in Utah’s GOP primary election to fill Rep John Curtis’ 3rd Congressional District seat.

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary election with five candidates vying to replace outgoing Rep. John Curtis, who is running for U.S. Senate this year.

Republicans JR Bird, John Dougall, Mike Kennedy, Case Lawrence and Stewart Peay are each on the June 25 ballot. Kennedy, a state lawmakers, survived six rounds of voting at April’s GOP state convention, to win over delegates for their nomination. The winner of the 3rd District primary will face Democrat Glenn Wright this fall.

To better understand the candidates’ positions on issues readers told The Salt Lake Tribune were important in this primary, a reporter asked each candidate the same question. The candidates’ answers have been edited for grammar, clarity and length.

1. With the Dobbs decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and left abortion policy to individual states. As a member of Congress, would you support a national abortion ban? Why or why not? (150 word max)

JR Bird: We already have a national abortion ban. It’s called the Constitution. It was instituted to protect our inalienable, God-given rights — first and foremost, that of life. The question then becomes, when does life begin? We need to come to a consensus on that as Congress and as a society. Until then, I believe this issue is best left in the hands of the states.

John Dougall: No, I do not support a national abortion ban. As a staunch pro-life advocate, I support state-level restrictions with limited exceptions for rape, incest, and to protect the life of the mother. Abortion should never have been a federal issue. Scholars across the ideological spectrum have critiqued Roe v. Wade for its legal reasoning. The U.S. Supreme Court has now returned abortion policy to the states, respecting our federalist system. Continuing to push for a national ban weakens the balance between state and federal powers.

The U.S. Constitution grants states significant authority to govern matters reflecting their unique values. States have diverse cultural and moral landscapes, and allowing them to regulate abortion respects this diversity. State governments should be more accessible and accountable to residents, fostering responsive governance. Local officials and local providers should be better situated to meet the medical needs of patients.

Mike Kennedy: I’m proudly pro-life and have championed and supported legislation in Utah that saves lives, supports women, and strengthens families. While a national abortion ban is unlikely to pass in the current climate, there are crucial and common-sense steps we can take. We should eliminate taxpayer funding for elective abortions, ban dangerous “abortion-by-mail” pills that lack proper medical oversight and harm women, and pass legislation that responsibly advances the pro-life cause. By focusing on these achievable goals, we can make significant progress in protecting life, supporting women, and strengthening families across America.

Case Lawrence: I am strongly pro-life. For the past 50 years, we have sought to overturn Roe v Wade and return legislative decisions on abortion back to the states. Now that Roe v Wade has been overturned, I believe it is important to let abortion restrictions and legislation play out at the State level.

Stewart Peay: No. I agree that the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion means that it is up to each individual state to set their own policy. I personally support restricting abortion to very limited purposes (rape, incest and the health of the mother), and I believe most Utahns agree. But letting this be decided at the national level would allow for abortion rights to be drastically expanded in our state anytime there is a Democrat in the White House and/or a Democrat majority in Congress. The best way to defend the views of the majority of Utahns on this issue is to ensure it remains a local, state decision.

2. The Colorado River faces an uncertain future. Climate change has weakened the river’s flows and overuse has siphoned its reservoirs. As the current guidelines for the operation of the Colorado River and its reservoirs will expire in 2026, the seven states that use the river’s water have been hashing out what new guidelines will look like. Yes or no: Should Utah, and upper basin state, cut its Colorado River water use?

JR Bird: No answer.

John Dougall: It depends. We live in a desert. Utahns must be wise stewards of our limited water resources.

Mike Kennedy: No. We are already doing more than other states and should not put ourselves at a strategic disadvantage. We should maintain our water rights while also looking for innovative ways to conserve water. If other states need more water, they should pay us for it.

Case Lawrence: No, Utah should not reduce its water use any further because it is already experiencing a deficiency due to structural challenges with evaporation and transportation issues. Instead, we need to invest in new water infrastructure and modern technology to get maximum use and benefit from our water allotment since we do not have major upstream reservoirs like other states.

Stewart Peay: Utah should use the amount of water allotted under the Compact. Water is vital to the citizens of Utah. Under the 1922 Colorado River Compact and subsequent laws, Utah was granted the right to 23% of available water in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Utahns need leaders who will fight to ensure its citizens have access to the water granted to the state under the law.

3. How can Utah be part of the solution on the Colorado River? (150 words max)

JR Bird: As stated in the Constitution, water issues are decided by the states. The federal government has no authority on the matter. My role as a member of Congress is to support the plan that our water leaders and the State of Utah propose.

John Dougall: Utah receives 23% of the Upper Basin’s allocation, with 27% of its water usage and 60% of residents directly benefiting from the river. Prolonged droughts and rising demand are straining the river’s sustainability. Upper Basin states may need to reduce water usage to ensure the long-term health of the river. Balancing the needs of communities, agriculture, industry, and other stakeholders, adhering to legal water allocation agreements, is essential.

Utah should prioritize water conservation, promote efficient irrigation and upgrade infrastructure. Ending tax subsidies could discourage wasteful usage. Diversifying water sources through recycling and stormwater capture and collaborating with other states are vital for equitable management and addressing future water supply challenges.

By focusing on these efforts, Utah can help ensure the sustainability of the Colorado River Basin while meeting the needs of Utahns for generations to come.

Mike Kennedy: Utah has not been using its full allocation of Colorado River water rights, so it is already part of the solution. The real challenges on this issue result from the behavior of the Lower Basin states. As a congressman, I will advocate for Utah’s rights and interests in water negotiations. We have the 2023 agreement to reduce water usage, but after two stellar water years and recognizing the temporary nature of the 2023 agreement, we must remain vigilant in protecting the needs of our state, especially our farmers and ranchers. We should always work together to regularly evaluate and secure our vital water supply. My goal will be to prioritize the people of Utah and the excellent stewardship of our natural resources for years to come. I am committed to ensuring Utah continues its wise management of water, balancing our needs with the natural ebb and flow of this vital resource

Case Lawrence: Utah should continue to be a leader in finding solutions to regional challenges like this. It is critical for states to collaborate and work together as much as possible rather than being subject to a top-down plan from the federal government. It is also critical that the Lower Basin states maintain their commitment to reduced use due to their unique advantages.

Stewart Peay: Utahns are always willing to do their part and lead by example. The governor, state legislators, county and municipal officials, and many farmers and ranchers throughout Utah have taken steps to increase conservation, optimize use, install water-efficient systems, and use less. These efforts will need to increase and continue, but I am confident Utahns will rise to the occasion and do their part. Likewise, entities like the Colorado River Commissioner and the Colorado River Authority of Utah will work with the other basin states to ensure that common ground is found in forging a sustainable seven-state solution to our long-term water challenges.

4. How should Congress address immigration reform? What are some specific actions Congress should take toward solving this problem? (150 words max)

JR Bird: We’ve seen in recent years what a more secure border looks like and we need to return to many of those policies. First, we need to enforce the laws already on the books; second, Congress needs to codify the remain-in-Mexico policy; third, we need to simplify the process for those coming across legally — including allowing for additional H2A and H2B visas for additional seasonal workers in our agriculture and tourism industries; and fourth, we need much stiffer penalties for crossing illegally.

John Dougall: Legal, hardworking immigrants helped build a strong, vibrant America. Criminal chaos weakens it. Ellis Island exemplified an orderly pathway for immigrants seeking lawful entry to work and pursue the American Dream.

My Ellis Island Immigration Plan rests on two pillars: securing the border and fixing legal immigration. Fixing consists of streamlining Green Card applications, cutting government red tape for a functional temporary worker program, conducting comprehensive background checks, and requiring each immigrant to have a job or a sponsor to ensure immigrants are not a burden on taxpayers. Border security involves completing and reinforcing the southern border wall, restricting asylum claims to legal ports of entry and closest country requirements, deploying additional asylum judges, ending “catch and release,” and prioritizing the deportation of criminal immigrants and those reliant on welfare.

Mike Kennedy: First and foremost, we must secure the border to stop the flood of deadly fentanyl and illegal immigration that has surged under the Biden administration. I support finishing the border wall, investing in advanced technology for border patrol, and passing legislation to codify President Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, and ensuring proper vetting before entry. By securing our border, we can keep American families safe and make illegal immigration harder than legal immigration to preserve the integrity of our system.

As a first-generation American on my father’s side, I deeply value our legal immigration system and its benefits to our economy and nation. By having honest conversations, we can work toward finding solutions that secure our border and keep our country safe. We must also fix our broken immigration laws, attract skilled workers, and keep families together to foster a stronger, more secure America.

Case Lawrence: First and foremost, Congress needs to provide resources and the legal impetus to establish a secure and functioning border system. This system should include walls (especially in high population/urban areas) but should also include high-tech cameras, lighting and access roads to allow border agents to access and enforce remote regions of the border. Because of the lack of enforcement of the border by Biden (and other Democratic administrations), Congress must also consider legislative solutions that substantially reform —and even possibly end —the border asylum intake. Border agents should be focused on enforcing a border and not be co-opted into de-facto immigration administrators. The asylum process is better administered in state department offices in immigrants’ home countries throughout the world and not in a literal desert at remote parts of the border.

Stewart Peay: This is the most pressing issue facing Congress, as we must crack down on the drug cartels who have taken control of the border. The current legislative proposals are not perfect but could be improved if the House and Senate choose to actively work on this issue. Instead, they have decided to wait until after the elections this year. One specific idea I have proposed during my campaign is to reform current asylum laws. Currently, if a person seeks to enter the United States through Canada to seek asylum, they must first apply for asylum in Canada. This is not currently required at the southern border. Enacting the same rule at the U.S.-Mexican border would help us better understand who is trying to enter our country and reduce the flow of illegal entries.

5. Yes or no: Do you agree with Sen. Mike Lee’s claim that illegal immigrants are registering to vote in the U.S.?

JR Bird: I believe in upholding the law by ensuring only U.S. citizens vote in federal elections. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting noncitizens from voting in federal elections, including elections for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and presidential elections. This does not apply to elections for state and local offices.

John Dougall: Illegal immigrants and noncitizens should not be allowed to register to vote in the U.S. Documented cases of noncitizens voting are rare, often involving legal immigrants who mistakenly believe they have voting rights. While laws exist against such behavior, strengthening controls over voter registration is necessary to prevent such incidents.

Mike Kennedy: I believe that maintaining the integrity of our elections is paramount. Ensuring that only legal citizens are allowed to vote is a fundamental part of that process. While there are concerns about illegal immigrants potentially registering to vote, I think it’s essential to focus on strengthening our voter verification systems and laws to prevent any illegal activity. Our goal should be to guarantee that every American citizen who wants to vote can do so securely and confidently.

Case Lawrence: Because the Biden administration is willfully not enforcing our Southern Border, it is impossible for us to know who is even in this country. Although it is currently illegal for illegal immigrants to register to vote in the United States, the practical reality is that our current circumstances make this almost impossible to enforce effectively. Many states allow driver licenses and other indicators of citizenship to serve as a basis for registration. But, these forms of identification are not exclusive to legal citizens.

Stewart Peay: I am not aware of any instance of this occurring in the state of Utah.

6. Do you support or oppose more military aid for Ukraine?

JR Bird: I believe a strong America makes the world a safer and more prosperous place and a weak America sows chaos and economic hardship. I believe it is important to stand up to thugs like Putin — as we have. However, with over $100+ billion in foreign aid given and most experts believing the current conflict could be at a stalemate for years, it’s time to evaluate what the long-term goals of the United States are in the region. I can’t in good conscience support giving additional aid until we have a strategy that closes the many loopholes in Russian sanctions, illustrates greater participation from Europe and our NATO allies, and gives an accurate accounting for how the aid already sent has been used. If we’re going to be involved, we need a strategy to utilize every option available, except that of sending our troops, to end this conflict quickly and decisively.

John Dougall: Putin is a brutal murderer. I believe Russia has designs on greater territorial conquest which poses the risk of sucking the U.S. into larger military conflict. History showed the tragic results where the U.S. fought a brutal world war to blunt Germany’s territorial conquest.

As such, I support targeted weapons and munitions aid for Ukraine sufficient to keep the U.S. out of a more serious military conflict. I do not support providing unaccountable cash assistance. As U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson wisely stated, Americans would rather send bullets than boys.

I believe anyone who thinks that stopping all military aid to Ukraine will stop war is highly naïve. That will embolden Putin, tell China and Iran that America is weak, and inform allies that America shouldn’t be trusted. We are living in dangerous times. Isolationism didn’t work 100 years ago, and it won’t work today.

Mike Kennedy: I sponsored and passed a resolution in 2022 addressing the need for better oversight and strategic support in international conflicts. Nobody wants this conflict to continue, but we can’t keep sending blank checks with zero oversight. We have veterans sleeping on our streets and our own border isn’t secure. We must prioritize our resources wisely. Besides, what can Ukraine buy with our money that we can’t sell them? We have the greatest military in the world. A lot can change before I potentially take office in January. Still, I would be open to supporting a loan to Ukraine or seizing Russian assets to provide Ukraine with more support in the form of weapons and medicine.

I support Ukraine in its efforts to defend its borders, and I believe every country has the right to defend its borders and protect its people. Europe also needs to step up and do more. This is not just an American issue; it’s a global one. European nations must increase their contributions to support Ukraine and uphold regional stability.

Case Lawrence: Depends on American security interests and future facts on the ground.

Stewart Peay: Without putting a single American soldier at risk, the U.S. has been able to degrade the Russian military in ways we never could have dreamed. We have decimated the military might of our greatest foreign adversary using a fraction of our annual defense budget, and America is safer as a result.

The investment against their aggression and advancements amounts to roughly 5 percent of the annual DOD budget. Put another way, it is less than 1 percent of total US spending over the last two years.

What some may not know is that when we give aid to Ukraine, we are providing them old weapons and using the appropriated funds to upgrade and modernize our own artillery and stockpiles. As a Republican, I support a strong national defense and defending the cause of freedom. Standing with the Ukrainians accomplishes both without sending a single son or daughter to war.

7. Do you support or oppose continuing to provide military aid to Israel?

JR Bird: Israel is our most critical ally in the Middle East, and we have a special relationship. Time and time again, Israel has proven to be a trustworthy and transparent ally. When Israel requests aid, they request specific resources for specific reasons — not a blank check. The Biden administration’s hesitancy to fully support Israel since October 7th’s attack for political reasons is distressing, and as a member of Congress I will fight for Israel to have the resources and support it needs.

John Dougall: The October 7, 2023 attacks strengthened my resolve to stand with Israel. I support aid to ensure victory in Israel’s mission of rescuing the hostages, particularly American hostages, and ensuring Hamas is never able to launch another such attack again on anyone.

As Israel develops an even more robust economy, with stronger ties with U.S. businesses and stronger ties with neighboring countries, and as It establishes a more self-sufficient military industry, Israel can navigate international relations with greater independence and with less reliance on U.S. military aid. A stronger Israel cannot be dependent on the whims of a fickle president and a dysfunctional Congress.

Mike Kennedy: I support our ally Israel. I hope that we can replace Joe Biden in November and sort these things out quickly. The atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7 were a stark reminder of the threats Israel faces. As a member of Congress, I will unequivocally support Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism. Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization, continues to pose a significant threat not just to Israel but to peace and stability in the entire region.

In Congress, I will support sanctions against Iran and support decisive measures to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capability. My commitment includes backing strong U.S.-Israel cooperation to enhance Israel’s defense capabilities, helping defeat Hamas, and ensuring that Israel is fully equipped to defend itself against all forms of aggression, including nuclear threats.

Case Lawrence: Israel is a financially secure and prosperous nation that can provide financial means for its own defense. However, we should stand ready to collaborate with Israel and provide whatever they need in terms of intelligence, military training, capability and moral support.

Stewart Peay: As long as Hamas continues to hold hostages, I support providing military aid to Israel.

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