Sen. Todd Weiler, in first Utah GOP primary election, shares his views on water policy and education funding

The three-term incumbent Republican lawmakers faces Ronald Mortensen in Utah’s Senate District 8 primary election.

Although Republican Todd Weiler is seeking his fourth full term in the Utah Senate, 2024 marks the first time he’s been forced into a primary election. Ronald Mortensen captured 47% of the delegate vote at April’s Utah GOP nominating convention to earn a berth in the primary. Weiler had already qualified for the primary through signature gathering.

Mortensen, a fellow at the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies, was nominated by Donald Trump to be an assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, but that nomination stalled. He lost the 2022 GOP primary election in House District 20 to incumbent Melissa Garff Ballard.

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. Weiler responded to The Tribune, Mortensen did not. The candidate’s answers have been edited for grammar, clarity and length.

1. Should Utah, while it actively supports housing and business development, also be looking for more sustainable and less fossil fuel and carbon-dependent energy sources? (150 word max)

Todd Weiler: Absolutely yes. And all options should be on the table.

Ronald Mortensen: No response.

2. Yes or no: Is climate change negatively impacting Utah?

Todd Weiler: Yes, and we need to adopt an approach that isn’t going to do more harm than good.

Mortensen: No response.

3. Water scarcity continues to be a challenge for the state. Recent legislation has attempted to conserve water and get more to the Great Salt Lake and Colorado River.

Should Utah do more to subsidize homeowners to conserve water? Should laws require large users to pay more for water? What other steps should state government take to deal with water scarcity? (150 words max)

Todd Weiler: The most important step right now is to educate Utahns on water conservations. Since the drought in 2022, citizen have risen to the challenge to conserve water on their own. More education will lead to more conservation. The last thing Utah needs right now is more government regulation.

With respect to water pricing, Utah needs to take step to stop hiding the cost of water in property taxes and other fees. If Utahns were aware of the actual cost of a gallon on potable water they would likely take their own steps to conserve it.

I would need more information before deciding on an appropriate policy for large water users. But I’m not convinced that a city park and a private golf course should be treated the same.

Mortensen: No response.

4. Yes or no: Do you support building the Lake Powell Pipeline?

Todd Weiler: Yes.

Mortensen: No response.

5. Triggered after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Utah’s current law bans nearly all abortions — except in instances of sexual crimes, when there is a fatal fetal abnormality or when the mother’s life is at risk. For now, that law is currently on hold in the courts and an 18-week ban is active in Utah.

More or fewer: Should Utah’s trigger law have more or fewer restrictions?

Todd Weiler: It’s just right, and the courts should allow it to go into effect.

Mortensen: No response.

6. For or against: Are you voting for or against the constitutional amendment that removes the requirement that income taxes be used for education and social services?

Todd Weiler: For, it’s the right thing to do and it will eliminate the state tax on food.

Mortensen: No response.

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