These Republicans want Mitt Romney’s U.S. Senate seat. Here’s where they stand on Utah’s biggest issues.

John Curtis, Trent Staggs, Jason Walton and Brad Wilson are all on the ballot in Utah’s June 25 primary election for U.S. Senate. They’ll face Democrat Caroline Gleich in the fall.

The Republican primary in Utah’s race to replace Sen. Mitt Romney is crowded with a congressman, businessmen and a former lawmaker.

Candidates in the June 25 U.S. Senate primary election include: John Curtis, who’s leaving his 3rd Congressional District seat run for the U.S. Senate; Trent Staggs, who was nominated by Utah GOP delegates for the race; Jason Walton, a businessman and entrepreneur; and Brad Wilson, the former Utah House speaker.

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)

John Curtis: I am pro-life and proud to have an A+ voting record from the Susan B. Anthony list. This topic is deeply personal to many Americans, and we should approach it with compassion and understanding for diverse perspectives, particularly as we see the implementation of state abortion laws. That said, I have supported pro-life legislation that is broadly supported across the country, including preventing taxpayer-funded abortion, protecting babies that are born alive during an attempted abortion, and nationally banning abortion after the child is capable of feeling pain.

Trent Staggs: I believe in federalism and states rights. I also believe abortion is murder in the overwhelming majority of cases and murder should be illegal federally.

Jason Walton: I’m pro-life. I believe life begins at conception. I agree with the recent Supreme Court Decision overturning Roe v. Wade and sending the regulation of abortion to the States where it currently constitutionally belongs. In theory, I would support a constitutional amendment that protects the sanctity of life if worded properly. However, I do not believe any constitutional amendment that could get two-thirds support of each house and three-quarters of the states would protect the sanctity of life stronger than Utah’s laws can protect it.

Brad Wilson: As [House] speaker in Utah, I fought to pass the strongest pro-life protections anywhere in the country and that’s the approach I would take as Utah’s next U.S. Senator. I’m unapologetically pro-life and would fight at the federal level to protect the unborn.

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, an Upper Basin state, cut its Colorado River water use?

John Curtis: Federal officials should allow the states to take the lead in pursuing a seven-state solution to the 2026 guideline revisions. Congress can and should support state and local efforts to optimize and improve water use efficiency. This can include preventing water leaks, agriculture technology improvements and voluntary conservation efforts. By living within the means of the river and by promoting sustainable reservoir operations, Utah can ensure our water users are protected as we continue to satisfy our compact obligations to the Lower Basin.

Trent Staggs: No, we have not used our share as is — and as the state with highest the population growth, our farmers need access to that water. Water allocated to Utah under interstate compacts should be developed for use in Utah.

Jason Walton: No, Utah should not unilaterally cut our Colorado River water usage. We need a comprehensive plan for a workable long-term solution.

Brad Wilson: Absolutely not. As speaker of the [Utah] House, I passed landmark legislation to create the Utah Colorado River Authority, ensuring Utahns receive every single drop of water that belongs to them. Unlike the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California, and Nevada – Utah has historically not used our full allocation of water, as laid out under the Colorado River Compact. I will continue to fight to protect, utilize, and develop Utah’s water resources because current and future generations depend on it.

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

John Curtis: The state already takes cuts in the form of shortages which happen annually in Utah and the Upper Basin, generally.

Trent Staggs: Strong leadership in the [U.S.] Senate is required. One of the reasons the Senate is designed with equal suffrage among states is so that a big state like California can’t overwhelm the rest of us on issues like this. I reject unfunded mandates relating to water quality regulations imposed by changes in rule and law.

Jason Walton: To meet our needs, we must insist on stable water levels in Utah’s reservoirs. Our goal must be to prevent the reservoirs’ calamitous decline while protecting our current clean, hydropower generation levels and making sure Utah farmers, ranchers, and citizens get the water they need.

Brad Wilson: Passing legislation to create the Utah Colorado River Authority was a huge step in the right direction as Utah finally claimed its rightful seat at the table. However, it cannot end there. While there is no single solution to solving the perennial challenges of the Colorado River, Utah can lead out by finding the right balance between thoughtful stewardship and maximizing our resources. Such a complex issue demands a leader who will present innovative solutions and stand up for Utah’s best interests. Just as I did as speaker of the House, I will continue to fight for our state’s rights in the U.S. Senate, making sure we are a part of the conversation, not an afterthought.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) John Curtis campaigns at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

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

John Curtis: My firsthand experience at the southern border provides valuable insight into the complex challenges that exist there, particularly concerning human trafficking and border security. The prevalence of human trafficking, often facilitated by criminal organizations like cartels, underscores the urgency of addressing border security issues.

The observation of incomplete construction of the border wall highlights the need for consistent and effective measures to enhance border infrastructure and security. Balancing security needs with transparency and fairness in immigration processes is indeed a multifaceted task that requires careful consideration.

Most Americans agree about the necessity of a more secure border and the importance of implementing a system that effectively differentiates between those who seek to contribute positively to society and those who pose a threat. We must address security concerns while upholding principles of fairness and transparency.

Trent Staggs: It’s long past time we incentivize upholding the law and penalize breaking it. Building the wall, reinstating “Remain in Mexico” [a Trump-era immigration policy] and E-Verify, and cutting taxpayer-funded benefits to non-citizens would be a simple start.

Jason Walton: Joe Biden needs to end his catch-and-release policy and implement a stay-in-Mexico policy for illegal aliens seeking asylum. The cost of human lives and the financial burden on the American taxpayer are disturbingly high. Our immigration policy should not reward people who immigrate illegally and punish those trying to immigrate lawfully. We can’t let criminals, drug traffickers and terrorists cross the border with impunity. I support a robust immigration reform package that protects American values, safety and security — including finishing the wall.

Brad Wilson: The very first thing we need to do is repeal Joe Biden’s open border policies and secure the border. Biden has created an unprecedented crisis on our southern border that could end today if we had politicians with the guts to stand up for common sense. That means bringing back “Remain in Mexico”, finishing the wall, and hiring the additional border patrol personnel we need now. We have to pass House Resolution 2 [known in Congress as the “Secure the Border Act of 2023″] and stop the ridiculous taxpayer handouts that only incentivize more people to break the laws and come here illegally. We have to defund sanctuary cities, and those who’ve broken our laws to get here need to be sent back. In Utah, I led the strongest crackdown on illegal immigration in state history and fought Biden trying to designate Utah a sanctuary state — that’s the leadership Utahns can expect from me in the Senate.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trent Staggs campaigns at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

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

John Curtis: While it’s clear there are non-citizens voting in local elections, federal elections typically have stricter regulations and safeguards in place to prevent non-citizens from voting, such as requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. Concerns about non-citizens voting have led to ongoing discussions and efforts to strengthen election integrity measures.

Efforts to address concerns should be grounded in data-driven solutions that promote transparency and accountability in the electoral system.

Trent Staggs: I believe it would be naive to think this isn’t being attempted, especially with Democrats’ history of demonstrating they want non-citizens to vote.

Jason Walton: Illegal immigrants are streaming into our country. Despite safeguards to stop them, illegal immigrants are, in some cases, very likely swelling Democrat voter rolls, just like Joe Biden wants. In addition, illegal immigrants are counted in the census, so yes, even though they are not citizens, they influence the number of members each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

Brad Wilson: Yes, and it isn’t a matter of debate. In the District of Columbia and 16 cities across California, Maryland and Vermont, illegal aliens are not only registered to vote, but their city governments have recently passed legislation allowing them to do it.

6. More or less: Military aid for Ukraine?

John Curtis: I mirror the understandable frustration in the lack of clarity and planning from the U.S. when it comes to Ukraine. Our objectives and plans aren’t clear. This is why I supported legislation that requires the president to present a strategy that ensures accountability and transparency in addressing complex international issues. Hopefully, such measures will contribute to more effective efforts to counter Putin’s actions and support Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Trent Staggs: None. We have no oversight and have given $175 billion with almost no clue where it’s been spent.

Jason Walton: Provide more intelligence support for Ukraine and more leadership in getting Europe to support Ukraine financially. But we can’t afford to keep funding Ukraine. It makes no sense to defend Ukraine’s borders while criminals, drugs, and terrorists are freely crossing our southern border. Moreover, the bloated spending on Ukraine threatens the value of our dollar and, consequently, our security.

Brad Wilson: Of course, we can’t let Putin run roughshod over eastern Europe, but we cannot continue writing blank checks to finance wars with impunity. Americans deserve to know exactly what their taxpayer dollars are being spent on and where they are going. We do not have that transparency right now and we should demand better. That said, the biggest issue here is Biden’s failed leadership on the world stage — our allies don’t trust him and our enemies do not fear him. If Biden had had the courage to lead, we would never have been in this mess to begin with.

7. More or less: Military aid for Israel?

John Curtis: Not only is Israel the only democracy in the region, a leader and partner in technological innovation and entrepreneurship, a land of significant religious importance, and one of our strongest security partners in the world, but Israel also stands as the embodiment of “Never again.”

History has shown that one of the world’s oldest hatreds, antisemitism, continually rears its ugly head, leading to Jews becoming targets of mob violence and state-sanctioned violence. This culminated in its most horrific form during the Holocaust. Israel guarantees that never again will Jews be without defense. It serves as the ultimate safe haven for Jews worldwide, ensuring they always have a place of refuge and protection.

Supporting and ensuring the security and survival of the Jewish state is not only a strategic necessity but also a profound moral imperative.

Trent Staggs: We have a commitment made to Israel that must be fulfilled.

Jason Walton: In these troubling times, a strong Israel benefits America and stabilizes the Middle East. Israel needs to be supported with intelligence and, at times, financial aid on a case-by-case basis.

Brad Wilson: I support Israel in their efforts to completely eliminate Hamas. Israel is one of our strongest allies and we must stand strong against terrorism and antisemitism.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jason Walton answers a question during the GOP US Senate Debate at the Scera Center for the Arts in Orem, Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

8. The United States has more than $30 trillion of debt. Do you think the solution is reducing spending or increasing taxes?

John Curtis: Since coming to Congress, I have opposed every omnibus spending bill that increased our debt and deficit. With interest on our debt nearly exceeding military spending, we are on the brink of a fiscal cliff. We need to look at all federal programs to determine if they are better handled at the state or local level. We need to take a closer look and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse. I am also a strong supporter of creating an independent fiscal commission to put together a plan to reduce the deficit and force Congress to vote on that proposal. This includes a closer look at Social Security and Medicare.

Trent Staggs: Reducing spending. We can start with abolishing the federal Department of Education, ending funding to the UN and getting back to process in regards to budgeting in Congress.

Jason Walton: As a strong fiscal conservative, I believe the answer is never increasing taxes. America’s fiscal problem is a spending problem. The federal government needs to rein in reckless spending right now so future American generations have the opportunity to succeed. America needs a balanced budget amendment because career politicians are addicted to spending.

The sprawling federal bureaucracy is ripe for cuts. The government needs to go on a diet with across-the-board cuts. Force bureaucrats to identify excess spending and propose smaller budgets. Congress should tell them how much to cut. I support constitutional spending caps of 18% of gross domestic product.

Brad Wilson: We have a spending problem, not a revenue one. The only way we’re going to get spending under control at the federal level is by passing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will force career politicians to live within their means the way Utahns do every single day. In Utah, I was able to pass the biggest tax cut in state history because we had our fiscal house in order and worked to be good stewards of our state money. It’s that kind of fiscal responsibility we need more of in Washington. There’s waste, fraud and abuse in every layer of government that we need to slash immediately. Look no further than the “COVID” legislation and the “Inflation Reduction Act” that were filled with waste on Green New Deal projects and handouts to golf courses and luxury resorts. Those are easy places to start.

9. Do you favor cutting social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare?

John Curtis: [From previous question] We need to look at all federal programs to determine if they are better handled at the state or local level… This includes a closer look at Social Security and Medicare.

Trent Staggs: I believe for those who have paid in, we must make sure our promises are fulfilled, while giving free-market options to younger generations.

Jason Walton: We must honor our obligations to Americans who have sacrificed and contributed to Social Security and Medicare. These programs are not sustainable in the long run. They need to migrate to privatized systems where Americans can see more significant returns on their retirement savings.

Brad Wilson: No. Americans have paid into Social Security and Medicare their entire lives. We have to honor that commitment. We cannot shortchange our seniors, and we shouldn’t cut a single penny of benefits from folks who’ve been taxed their entire lives to receive it. The biggest problem is that Congress, for too long, has used the Social Security Trust Fund as its personal piggy bank, and it’ll be completely depleted by 2034 if we don’t take action to ensure we can preserve these programs.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brad Wilson campaigns at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

10. Who won the 2020 election, and was that victory free and fair?

John Curtis: I am focused on ensuring Republican victory in 2024, including in the Senate, House, and White House. I see Utah’s election system as a model for the rest of the country, especially our efforts to prevent voter fraud, which ensures confidence in our election results. I have faith in the security of America’s election process and voted to certify the 2020 election in accordance with my constitutional duties.

Trent Staggs: It’s how Joe Biden won I struggle with. Blue states unconstitutionally changed their own election laws to allow universal mail-in voting. We must get back to voting in-person and showing ID, as is the common practice in every other democratic country on Earth. I have serious concerns with how we allowed Big Tech to collude with big government and censor pertinent stories, like Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Jason Walton: Biden won. There were irregularities in the 2020 election that demanded our investigation. We need to be vigilant about election security, and I will fight to ensure the integrity of our elections as a U.S. Senator.

Brad Wilson: Joe Biden won the 2020 election. The 2020 election was also used by the Democrats to push unprecedented changes to our election laws that tilt the scales in their favor nationwide. Americans have lost faith in their institutions, and restoring faith in our elections starts with taking voter fraud seriously and passing a national voter ID requirement. It makes no sense that you need an ID to board a plane or enter an office building but you do not need one to select the leaders of our country. We need to crack down on far-left jurisdictions like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, who now let illegals vote in their elections. Ultimately, it comes down to this: we have to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat if we want people to have faith in our system again.

11. Do you believe the federal Department of Education should be abolished?

John Curtis: To be clear, teachers are critically important members of our communities who deserve our respect and appreciation. These teachers are raising our next generation of leaders and we must support them. Also, education is run at the state and local level, which I fully support. The Department of Education has instead worked to take authority away from local school boards, parents, and teachers. Since its inception, we have not seen any evidence of DOE increasing student performance despite spending billions and billions of dollars. We are witnessing the cost of college spiraling at a rapid rate, chaos on university campuses, and DOE leadership openly trying to undermine rulings by the Supreme Court. It is clear the DOE is failing at its mission and should be abolished.

Trent Staggs: [From an earlier question about federal budget] Reducing spending. We can start with abolishing the federal Department of Education, …

Jason Walton: Yes, education administration is a state and local function. The Department of Education is unconstitutional. It is important to empower parents at the local level to choose the right education for their children. I support states’ rights in education policy to allow parents the opportunity to impact their children’s lives as they see fit.

Brad Wilson: Yes. We need to return power to the states and to the parents who know what’s best for their children, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. We take the $80 billion we spend every year on DOE and put it back in parents’ pockets. As Utah House speaker, I led the fight for parental rights and passed historic school choice legislation because parents and students should have the right to choose what’s best for them. That’s the approach I took in Utah, and it’s what I’d do again in Washington.

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