CEDAR CITY — Just four days after officially throwing his hat in the ring, Utah gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham visited Cedar City for an informal meet-and-greet Saturday night.
Approximately 200 people gathered for the family-friendly public event, held in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center on the Southern Utah University campus.
The attendees, which included numerous families with children, snacked on pizza, popcorn and soda pop while Burningham went around the room and greeted those at each table. The Republican candidate was accompanied by his wife, Sally, and three of their four children. The family resides in Provo.
Shortly after appearing with his family onstage, the self-proclaimed political outsider who has never run for public office, gave a 15-minute speech that outlined his vision for Utah’s future. Burningham told the Cedar City audience that his remarks were essentially the same ones he had delivered on the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday, when he officially declared his candidacy.
Touching on his campaign motto of “Game Changing Leadership,” Burningham elaborated on how he would fulfill that role. Burningham hopes to succeed Gov. Gary Herbert, who has served as Utah’s governor for the past decade but is not seeking reelection in 2020.
“I’m running because we need an innovative outsider to bring game-changing leadership to capture this once-in-a-generation opportunity before us,” Burningham said, citing his track record as a “job-creating entrepreneur” who has “the mindset of an innovative outsider with a smart plan for the decade ahead.”
Burningham also pledged to “uphold this state’s conservative way of life” and said he is an advocate for reduced government and less bureaucracy.
“We live in a rapidly changing world and our state government needs to adapt to these changes,” he said. “It’s time to challenge the inertia of bureaucracy and bring new ways of thinking to government.”
“Think about this: in the private sector, you all know, or have heard, we’re on the verge of making driverless cars widely available. It’s amazing, but government still makes us stand in line for hours just to renew our driver’s license,” he said. “Politicians say we need a governor who understands how government works. I say, we need a governor who understands how the world works and how to get our government to work more for us and intrude less upon us.”
Burningham promised to represent Utahns all over the state. He said Saturday’s visit marked his third recent trip to Cedar City, and added he would continue to make appearances and campaign all throughout Utah.
“Rural Utah and urban Utah are one Utah,” he said. “We are in this together. Here’s my pledge to the entire state of Utah: I am all in and I will go all out.”
Burningham also said he favors modernizing public education.
“We need to modernize our education system. We need to de-regulate our education system. I firmly believe that parents and teachers know best what their kids and students need, not the government.”
Later, during a brief follow-up interview with Cedar City News, Burningham elaborated about education.
“We need to trust our teachers that they know and parents that they know what’s best for their children,” he said. “I fear that there’s a mismatch between how we’re educating our children and the jobs that actually exist and are coming. Like I said, we’re in this old industrial age education complex, but we’re in a new economy.”
Burningham said the current educational system tends to focus on things like checking boxes, memorizing facts and jumping through hoops.
“That is not how we need to be thinking in the new economy,” he said. “You have to be creative. You have to be an entrepreneur. That is the future of the world, with technology. Let’s prepare our children to think like that.”
During his speech, Burningham also talked about helping make government more effective and responsive.
“For Utah, game-changing leadership means bringing new thinking to government, treating citizens not as people who vote in elections,but as taxpayers who deserve responsive service,” he said.
Burningham also acknowledged the road to the governor’s office won’t be easy.
“I want you to know that this will be a crowded race,” he said. “I am an outsider fighting the establishment a little bit, and it will be an expensive race.”
Following Burningham’s remarks, Iron County Commissioner and Cedar City Councilman Paul Cozzens also spoke briefly, giving Burningham his endorsement.
“I believe his message has resonated with people,” Cozzens said. “It resonates with me and I support him 100%. And so, I’d encourage all of you to support his campaign.”
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