SALT LAKE CITY – In their first televised debate, Democrat Darren Parry of Providence and Republican Blake Moore of Salt Lake City lived up to their promises to run civil, issue-oriented campaigns to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop in Congress.
During a Thursday forum sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission, there were no fireworks, no low-blows and the candidates seemed to agree on many issues.
One of their rare disagreements focused on the current political controversy over the timing of confirmation hearings to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I believe that, using the words of the Republicans from a few years ago, that no Supreme Court justice should be replaced in the final year of a president’s term of office,” Parry said. “The Republicans said that (in 2016) … But now it’s different? I don’t know why that should be.
“Justice Ginsburg was a great woman and every woman in our country should be grateful to her for her service to the county … I absolutely believe in my heart that the American people should have a say in who the next Supreme Court justice should be (through the upcoming general election).”
“I think that all Americans should be grateful to Justice Ginsburg,” Moore countered. “She did a lot of good and she was an extraordinary woman. It was nice to see the country come together – if only for a brief moment – to honor her.
“But we need to base our decisions (about her replacement) on the Constitution. If we don’t, everything gets political. If we look the Constitution and precedent, it’s clear that there is plenty of time to nominate, vet and confirm a new Supreme Court justice.”
While fielding questions from media representatives and students from Weber Sate University in Ogden, the candidates revealed generally similar thinking on many current topics. Those issues included the reliability of a coronavirus vaccine, the need for strategic stimulus funding for Utah’s small businesses, fiscal accountability in federal spending, wise management of public lands and the need for economic development in rural Utah.
While Moore and Parry are political newcomers, they nevertheless brought a wealth of experience to the debate stage at the University of Utah.
Moore was a U.S. Foreign Service officer in the Far East and is currently employed at the Cicero Group, a Salt Lake City management consulting firm where he advises public and private sector clients.
Parry is a former tribal chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, with experience mediating disputes involving Native American, federal and local interests.
Moore and Parry even agreed on the need to seek bipartisan consensus to solve problems in Congress, but differed on which of them was better qualified to do so.
“As a tribal leader … I’ve spend my entire life trying to build bridges between people who don’t normally get along,” Parry explained. “What divides our country today is not Republican problems or Democratic problems, but American problems … As I turn on the TV, I hear so much from people on the left and on the right. But I believe there a whole group of people, including me, who reside in the middle space. And it is now time for those of us in that middle space to stand up and make a difference in our communities. That why I’m here today.”
“We must send a dynamic and versatile leader to Washington,” Moore argued. “He must be someone with experience relevant to our current crises, the vision to meet future challenges and the ability to energize and inspire others, particularly the next generation. I’m on this stage because I believe I am that leader.”
The closest thing to personal jab during the debate came when Parry asked Moore why he felt qualified to represent northern Utah voters in Congress when he doesn’t even live within the 1st Congressional District’s boundaries.
“I’m originally from Ogden and that background never leaves you …” Moore replied. “Yes, I’ve had experiences that have taken me away from the 1st District, but that’s what set me up for success in life. I’ve got an amazingly strong ambition to represent this district and a connection to it. I think winning the Republican primary proved that.”
Parry and Moore will compete for Utah’s 1st District seat in Congress during the November general election.