CEDAR CITY – The Utah House Representative seat for District 72 is up for election this year. District 72 covers the majority of Iron County. The primary election is June 24, but residents of Iron County can participate in early voting on June 10-13.
The Republican Party is the only party with a primary election for the House of Representatives District 72. There are no representatives from the Democratic Party running for the position.
The candidate prevailing at the Republican primary election, either incumbent John Westwood or challenger Blake Cozzens, will face off in November against Libertarian Barry Short.
Westwood has been serving as state representative since January 2013. His opponent, Cozzens, current chair of the Iron County Republican Party, said he feels the position should have a more conservative member representing the district.
John Westwood is the chief financial officer at State Bank of Southern Utah and has been serving in political positions in Southern Utah for many years.
“I have been in politics most of my life,” Westwood said.
He has served on various committees including 10 years on the Cedar City Planning Commission and nine years on the City Council for Cedar City.
His experience and background has been an important backdrop before he decided to represent the area as a state representative, Westwood said.
Westwood initially got into politics to be involved and help his city.
“Why did I decide to be in politics?” Westwood said, “To be involved with my city and to help with the economic development and the growth and prosperity of our area.”
Conflict comes up everyday in politics because typically there are two sides to every issue, Westwood said. The best way to resolve conflict is to see which side will benefit the largest number of constituents.
To make a decision, Westwood said, he looks at what will most benefit and improve Iron County, the state of Utah and his beliefs.
“It’s good to bring both sides together if possible too,” he said. “That’s hard to do in a large group, but if you can get a smaller group with representatives from both sides and work out their differences, then that’s the way to go, if you can bring them together.”
If re-elected, Westwood’s goals are to focus on several issues facing Utah such as, Medicaid, properly insuring Utah citizens, economic development, public education, and the definition of marriage in Utah.
“Medicaid is my big one, health insurance, and economic development has been a big issue to me,” Westwood said. “I would like to continue that …. We’ve brought over the last two years over $23 million to Iron County, which is huge.”
Public education is a continuing goal, Westwood said. Whether it’s home or public school, he wants kids to receive the best education possible.
The definition of marriage in Utah has been defined as between a man and a woman, Westwood said. This has been voted on and approved by the citizens of Utah, the Senate and the House, and the governor.
“(This issue) is in the courts right now and will be decided soon, we’ll have to face that,” Westwood said. “That will be a big goal for us.”
Other issues facing Iron County will also be his focus, especially regarding prairie dogs, he said. Prairie dog fences have or are scheduled to go up in the area.
“It’s a great step forward, we need to continue that – we can’t back off now – and rid our cemetery and our golf course of these little fellers,” Westwood said, “and get them transferred, relocated and then move on from there.”
Political and business experience sets him apart to serve as a state representative, Westwood said. That is what legislature is, they’re business deals, or laws that have to do with business deals.
“I’ve been in a major business in our community for 40 years, so experience, knowledge of doing deals and my track record of bringing the money to Iron County,” Westwood said, “that distinguishes me from my opponent to a large extent.”
Blake Cozzens, 24 years old, currently serves as chair of the Iron County Republican Party after having served as vice chair for a year and a half.
While he was volunteering with a U.S. Senate campaign at a special election of the central committee, both the Iron County chair and vice chair for the Republican Party resigned.
“I decided to throw my name in and run for the vice chair of the Iron County Republican Party,” Cozzens said, “I won that spot and served in that position for about a year and a half.”
Cozzens ran for chair after former chair Steve Nelson decided to serve only one term. He was successful in his race and has served as chair for about the last year and a half.
He has been following a number of bills closely, Cozzens said, specifically SB 54 for elections amendments pertaining to the caucus system.
SB 54 passed and has been enrolled, although he expressed concerns about the bill to the current house representative.
“He supported those and I didn’t agree with that so I decided to run against him for that and a number of other reasons,” Cozzens said.
The position should be more conservative then how the current representative is voting, Cozzens said.
“I respect him and I think he’s a good guy, but he just hasn’t been voting conservative and the way I think that a limited government voice should be voting from this district,” Cozzens said.
If elected, Cozzens will face conflict in the new position as he does in his current political position, he said. Resolving conflict can be completed by finding common ground.
“Whomever the conflict’s with, you’re going to want to reach out to them and speak with them one-on-one,” Cozzens said. “Find out if there’s common ground and what could be done to come to a solution.”
Cozzens wants to tackle a number of issues; specifically, to restore the caucus system in full and repeal SB 54, he said. Another issue would be much more complex and take time.
“I would like to see Utah eliminate the income tax,” Cozzens said. “There’s currently nine other states in the United States that do not have income tax and they’re growing … faster then all the other states.”
Regulations that are burdensome on business and people need to eliminated, Cozzens said.
“I think there’s way too many laws and regulations passed each year and a lot of them are passed in the very last day without thorough review,” he said.
His conservative standpoint and thorough understanding of the Constitution allows him to be the best candidate, Cozzens said.
“I may be young and people say you don’t have the experience, but I do,” Cozzens said. “I do know the principles of the Constitution and how to apply them to legislation. I’m not in this for popularity or anything, I’m in it to try and make a difference.”
Government exists to protect the life, liberty and property of citizens, Cozzens said. It has gone past that and he wants to be part of that change.
“I think there’s a lot of things the government is involved in that it shouldn’t be,” he said, “and I think it’s taking away from the proper role of government.”
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