Three Takeaways From Congressional Candidate Jake Hunsaker’s Solitary Primary Debate

Republican incumbent Representative Burgess Owens did not show up for the debate and did not commit to participating in a debate sponsored by the GOP’s 4th congressional district.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jake Hunsaker answers questions next to an empty podium during a debate for the GOP primary for the 4th congressional district on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Hunsaker’s opponent, Rep. Burgess Owens declined to participate in the Utah Debate Commission-sponsored Debate.

It’s hard to have a debate when only one person shows up.

But that’s exactly what 4th congressional district candidate Jake Hunsaker did on Tuesday after his opponent, Rep. Burgess Owens, declined to participate in the Utah Debate Commission’s main debate.

The Republican incumbent also did not commit to participating in a GOP-sponsored debate before the June 28 primary. The Utah Republican Party moved to hold its own debates after its requests to sway the commission’s questions and moderators were rebuffed.

Owens’ spokesperson did not respond to the Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment.

The winner of the primary will qualify for the November 8 general election.

Moderator Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, guided the hour-long “Candidates’ Conversation” that touched on issues such as gun control, the right to Abortion and Term Limits in Congress.

How Hunsaker says he differs from Owens

It didn’t take long for Hunsaker to recognize “the elephant that isn’t in the room.”

“My opponent Burgess Owens is not here; he is not present,” he said. “And he has a record of absenteeism in our district and of engaging with voters on a consistent, proactive Conservative vision.”

(The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Representative Burgess Owens, left, and Jake Hunsaker, candidates for the Republican nomination for the 4th congressional district.

He also lambasted Holder for the amount of funding he receives from outside Utah and his partisan approach to politics.

“When I look at, for example, my opponent,” he said, “I see someone who doesn’t think their job is to represent their constituents or to focus on local Utah issues, but who rather thinks it is exclusively a party sport.”

Hunsaker said, on the other hand, that he attended numerous city council meetings across the district to hear the needs of his constituents and promised to be a federal voice representing their interests in Washington.

The three objectives of the Hunsaker Congress

If elected, Hunsaker said he would primarily focus on three legislative tasks during his first term.

The first concerns the country’s economy and inflation. Hunsaker spoke of cutting spending, passing a budget, and restructuring mandatory spending programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, which “stifle our nation’s ability to budget meaningfully or effectively.”

His second objective was to address federal lands and local control. He would like Utah and its communities to be allowed to dictate how their lands are used and developed, without undue interference from the federal government.

“We’re stuck in this federal bureaucracy that prohibits local impact on local issues,” he said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jake Hunsaker answers questions next to an empty podium during a debate for the GOP primary for the 4th congressional district on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Hunsaker’s opponent, Rep. Burgess Owens declined to participate in the Utah Debate Commission-sponsored Debate.

Finally, he addressed congressional ethics reform, saying he would like to introduce legislation implementing congressional term limits and prohibiting lawmakers from negotiating individual actions.

The Second Amendment, Abortion Rights, and Trump’s Endorsement

Throughout the debate, Hunsaker was firm in his stance in defense of the Constitution. He also said he was “unequivocally pro-life”.

On other subjects, he was less open.

He was coy about whether he would accept an endorsement from former President Donald Trump if offered.

And while criticizing politicians in Washington for refusing to offer real solutions to problems, he pledged to do nothing more than participate in discussions that would improve mass shootings in America.

When asked if he would support legislation implementing the red flag laws, he hesitated.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the gun conversation,” he said. “…This is a uniquely American problem and there must be a uniquely American solution.”

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