Ainge, Curtis and Herrod vie for special election Republican slot


Republican voters will choose a Republican candidate for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District race during a special primary election on Aug. 15. The winner will vie to fill the vacancy former Rep. Jason Chaffetz left when he resigned on June 30.

Dani Jardine
From left: Mayor John Curtis, Tanner Ainge and Chris Herrod speak at the 3rd Congressional District Republican debate in Provo, July 28. The special election Republican primary will take place Aug. 15. (Dani Jardine)

The three-way race pits Provo Mayor John Curtis against former Utah lawmaker Chris Herrod and political newcomer Tanner Ainge. The three, all BYU alumni, are competing to represent the Republican Party on the final ballot in November. Herrod was selected by delegates to the Republican Party convention in June. Ainge and Curtis both qualified to be on the ballot by collecting signatures.  

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democratic candidate Kathie Allen, Libertarian candidate Joe Buchman, United Utah Party candidate Jim Bennett, Independent American Party candidate Jason Christensen and unaffiliated candidate Sean Whalen in the Nov. 7 election.

Voters must register by Aug. 8, either in-person or online, to vote in the primary. Only registered Republicans can participate in choosing the Republican candidate, even though many non-affiliated Utah County voters were erroneously mailed ballots.

Salt Lake, Utah, Wasatch, Grand and San Juan counties will conduct the primary entirely through the mail, while Carbon and Emery counties will use in-person voting, according to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s OfficeThis is the first time in Utah history a member of Congress has resigned and left a vacancy, according to the office. 

The Universe gathered candidates’ positions by compiling phone interviews from the candidates. Some responses are supplemented by information on the candidates’ websites and from the candidates’ most recent debate

What are your top three policy priorities?

Ainge for Congress
Tanner Ainge is running as a Republican candidate for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District race during a special primary election on Aug. 15. Ainge said he wants to cut spending levels and reduce the national debt. (Tanner Ainge)

Tanner Ainge wants to cut spending levels and reduce the national debt. “For me, that is a moral issue … there will be a day of reckoning,” he said. “I don’t want it to come in my lifetime or in my kids’ lifetime, and there’s things we can do now to get us back on track.”

Ainge also wants to reduce regulation on business. “The Obama-era regulations are crushing entrepreneurs and small businesses,” he said. “We need to lift that burden so that entrepreneurs and the private sector can thrive and create more opportunities for everyone.”

Ainge plans to continue to resist and reduce federal government expansion. “(I will) return as much power and funds and resources back to the state level, which is the proper place for it,” he said.

John Curtis
Mayor John Curtis is running as a Republican candidate for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District race during a special primary election on Aug. 15. Curtis said he wants to resolve states’ rights issues.  (John Curtis)

John Curtis wants to provide answers to health care.  “The answer will come with more portability, flexibility and transparency,” according to a statement on Curtis’ campaign website.

Curtis said he wants to deal with fiscal mismanagement and put the nation on a better track financially. “As a businessman responsible for tens of millions in sales and hundreds of employees, I know how to create a budget and stick to it by making cuts if necessary,” according to his website.

Curtis also wants to resolve states’ rights issues, particularly as it relates to land and Bears Ears National Monument. “I am committed to working with our federal delegation to overhaul the current broken and politicized process and find a path to protect our natural beauty with transparency and key shareholder involvement,” according to his website.

Chris Herrod for Congress
Chris Herrod is running as a Republican candidate for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District race during a special primary election on Aug. 15. He said he wants to restore the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. (Chris Herrod)

Chris Herrod said he wants to restore the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. “If it’s not in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, then Congress shouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “One of my biggest priorities (is) to shift as much power back to the states as we can.” Herrod said the presidency and executive branch have been given too much rule-making authority, and he would like to get rid of the Antiquities Act to address this concern.

Herrod also wants to bring an international perspective. Herrod said he spent over five years studying and teaching internationally. “I’m greatly concerned about the problems in the Middle East,” he said. “We don’t seem to understand Islam and the problems and that we’re going to get caught up in endless wars in that part.”

Herrod wants to bring “economic sanity” to Congress. “(I will focus on) reigning in the budgets (and) dealing with entitlement reform so that our children are not burdened with this monstrous debt,” he said.


As a representative, how would you address Obamacare?

Ainge said Obamacare has been a “total failure,” and it needs to be repealed and replaced.

“We were told we could keep our same doctor, but that didn’t happen,” he said. “We were told we could keep our same plan, and that didn’t happen. And we were told costs would go down but our premiums have skyrocketed.”

Ainge said more choice and competition is needed in the healthcare marketplace.

“(This) will come by free market principles and not through government mandate,” he said.

Curtis said Obamacare needs to be repealed.

“The hard part is what we need to do next,” he said. “(We need to be) moving forward in a way that actually lowers health care costs and moves us to a stronger free market system and at the same time making sure that it provides that critical safety net for those that are most in need.” 

Curtis’ website says the U.S. has not had a free market health care system in decades.

“Government involvement and regulation has distorted the market for a very long time, and it is unrealistic to say we are going to roll everything back in the next four years,” according a statement on to his website. “It is time Congress got past trying to score political points and on to meaningful solutions for everyday Americans.”

Herrod said he would repeal Obamacare and start over.

“I’m a big believer in health savings accounts,” he said. “You need to have the safety of a catastrophic plan, but I want to be able to pick and choose my doctors, shop around. So that’s what needs to be done, is to make sure that we allow consumers’ choice.”

He said Obamacare has taken away choices, limiting consumers’ options to just one provider in some places, and soon there will be some places with no providers.

“That’s what happens when you take away individuals’ ability to choose,” he said.

He also said at the very least people need to be able to sign up for the “catastrophic plans” and not the “Cadillac plan.”


What is your policy approach to illegal immigration?

Ainge said his illegal immigration plan starts with securing the borders.

“It’s a national security issue. We can’t have those that would seek to harm us, terrorist organizations or drug cartels, coming up through a porous border,” he said.

The second step in his plan is to enforce existing laws.

“We can’t have people just living in the shadows,” Ainge said. “We need to be a country of law and order.”

He also said a healthy immigration process is needed “so that those who want to work here and be self-sufficient here and build their lives here can find a way of doing so” — including those who attend American universities and can contribute to the economy.

Curtis said his illegal immigration policy consists of four parts: strengthening and securing the borders, being tough on those who are here illegally and who commit serious crimes, implementing reforms, and providing restitution.

“We need to reform the system so that those who are waiting to come into our country legally and are qualified people that we would love to have here are able to apply and come over here legally,” Curtis said. “Those who are here illegally need to be shown how they can earn their way to be here legally.”

According to his website, “our policies should be humane and reflect a spirit of inclusion toward our immigrant neighbors.”

Herrod said his proposition is to allow illegal immigrants to come forward, put up a bond, put their affairs in order for up to six months, then go home with the bond they have secured.

He said his plan would include waiving penalties if people have overstayed their visas, which prevent their return for a certain amount of time, if they follow Herrod’s proposed plan.

“They cannot go to the front of the line, but they can immediately get in line,” he said.

Herrod said there are many victims of illegal immigration.

“The middle class, the working class, has been greatly hurt by downward pressure on wages,” he said. “(Legal) immigrants are (also) hurt because they have to wait 20 years to bring family, and then everybody butts in front of the line — and that’s simply not fair.”

He said illegal immigrants themselves are victims because of “what they go through to get here — whether it’s the rape trees on the southern border or getting caught up in human trafficking.”

He said he is against amnesty, and those who want to come to the U.S. need to understand they can only do so if they “come the right way, the front door.” He wrote a book on the topic: “The Forgotten Immigrant: How Tolerating Illegal Immigration Hurts Immigrants.”


Do you think global warming justifies governmental action, even if such action would have an impact on the economy?

Ainge said though there is scientific evidence of global warming, the predicted models are very imprecise in forecasting the impact of legislation today.

“Meanwhile, the negative impacts on the economy, on people’s’ opportunities, are immediately recognizable,” he said. “We need to be very careful in any government action.”

Ainge said he supported President Trump for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

Curtis said global warming is a “false narrative” people base their decisions on. He said he prefers to look at the issues in terms of doing the right thing.

“Here in Provo, we haven’t talked about global warming, but we have talked about personal stewardship, personal responsibility and what is the right thing to do,” he said.

Curtis also said he supported President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

Herrod said rational intervention is needed, which he said has not happened.

“The way that Europe has met many of its requirements is it’s just pushed business to third world countries where they’ve actually added more to the CO2 output,” he said. He also said the U.S. should do everything it can to keep industries in the country because the U.S. is more efficient than China in steel production and producing electricity per CO2 output.

He said he supports President Trump for pulling out of the Paris Agreement “simply because people are doing (it) for political reasons and not to help the environment. It’s simply a redistribution of wealth.”

Candidate backgrounds

Ainge owns a consulting firm and advises small businesses. Ainge, a lawyer and businessman, has experience in private equity, mergers and acquisitions, and serving as general counsel for a public health care company.

Ainge worked on Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. As a BYU student, he started a non-profit organization to help impoverished persons in Africa.

Ainge is the son of former BYU basketball player and Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge. Tanner Ainge majored in international studies and has a law degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He also studied Mandarin Chinese through a program at Cornell University. He served an LDS mission in West Africa and currently lives in Alpine, Utah.

Curtis is the mayor of Provo City. He worked as chief operations officer at a Provo company that makes shooting range equipment. Before that, his business experience was in sales and management.

Under Curtis’ tenure as mayor, he worked to make Provo a Google Fiber city, increase airport activity and revitalize downtown Provo.

Curtis earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from BYU in 1985. Curtis served an LDS mission in Tawain and currently lives in Provo.

Herrod served in the Utah House of Representatives from 2007 to 2012. He has also been involved in real estate in recent years. Herrod has lived overseas to work in business and education for over five years, including in the former Soviet Union.

Herrod served as the Utah director of the 2016 Ted Cruz campaign. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 against incumbent Orrin Hatch, losing in the primary. He also challenged incumbent Utah Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, for Utah State Senate District 16 in 2016. In 2009, he helped found the Patrick Henry Caucus to focus on states’ rights.

Herrod lists on his website the many op-ed pieces he has written. Herrod earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations and family living from BYU in 1990 and earned a master’s degree in organizational behavior from BYU in 1992. Herrod served an LDS mission in Sweden and currently lives in Provo.

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