The next time Utah County residents hear a knock on their door, it might not be a summer seller; it could be their elected representative. With GOP primaries in the past, Utah House Republicans are shifting into high gear campaigning for the fall and talking to their constituents.
For Rep. Norm Thurston, that meant spending the week with party officials in the area and getting to know the public.
According to Utah County Republican Party Chairman Skyler Beltran, all races in the county will receive equal party attention and with a simple message at all levels.
“Voters will hear a clear message about parental rights, the protection of individual freedoms and the value of strong families. All the fundamentals of our Party,” Beltran wrote in an email.
Thurston represents District 62, which stretches from South Provo to Springville. He officially launched his campaign for a fifth term by reaffirming his focus on three main issues: the economy, education and individual freedoms.
Two of which, the economy and personal freedom, are, according to him, interconnected.
“When the economy is good, people prosper. When people prosper, they rely less on government,” Thurston said.
Specifically, it is pushing for “minimum regulations” and plans to review professional licensing laws. He mentioned reviewing professions that have “too heavy” course requirements that don’t count work experience for licensing, among other issues.
Thurston isn’t alone in focusing on education. Utah’s 2022 legislative session was highlighted by a handful of controversial school-focused bills.
Thurston voted against the two most notable bills – the Hope Scholarship Program, House Bill 331, and Student Eligibility for Interscholastic Activities, HB 11, known colloquially as prohibition of transgender sports.
While saying he supports parents with choices, he thinks there are already a multitude of public options between public schools, charter schools and home schooling.
“The Hope Scholarships Bill was intended for only one thing, adding private schools to that list,” he said. He is not opposed to the idea of the bill, but ultimately did not support the final draft due to a lack of clarity regarding where the money will come from and where it will go.
Although he is firm in his beliefs, Thurston will not support any bill without having the opportunity to examine the wording.
“While I know where I am conceptually, the details of these bills really matter. … House Bill 11 would be a very good example of this – the version we looked at in the House was not the version that came back from the Senate,” he said.
Thurston voted in favor of HB 11 to override Governor Spencer Cox’s veto.
Although his goals are broad, Thurston has become connected to one of his most recurring issues – license plates. During the previous session, he drafted a bill that would have significantly changed state laws regarding license plates.
His focus on the rear bumpers of cars will and has been part of his run at Utah House. Democrat Daniel Friend repeatedly mentioned Thurston’s attention to license plates during his campaign.
“While this may sound funny to him, it is serious. It affects our constitutional rights,” Thurston said.
He thinks the problem has to do with the free speech and personal freedoms of Utah drivers.
Thurston and Friend will face each other in the general election for the second time, having both sought the seat in 2018 when Thurston won with 55% support.
Although there are 16 Utah House of Representatives districts spanning Utah County, not all GOP incumbents will face opponents in November.
Five races feature Democratic challengers after just two in 2020.
Beltran said the number of races contested would not affect the course of campaigns – and took the opportunity to fire at the Democratic Party over the decision not to have a candidate in the U.S. Senate race.
“No change in our strategy this year. Our message of conservative values and principles continues to resonate with voters in Utah County. Democrats have their work cut out for them when they decide their candidate and platform in the Senate were a lost cause and did not put anyone in place,” Beltran said.
Thurston, however, simply enjoys having an opponent on the general election ballot.
“I think elections are important. It’s important that people have a choice and that candidates present their best ideas,” he said.