Utah Senate District 29 candidates discuss police reform, state lands issues

Democratic challenger Chuck Goode (left) will go head-to-head against long -erm state legislator Sen. Don Ipson in November's general election representing Utah state Senate District 29 | Submitted photos

ST. GEORGE — When Utah voters cast their ballots in November’s general election, there are a host of contested races that pit Republicans against Democrats and against third-party candidates in what political pundits view as one of the most pivotal elections in modern times.

In Southern Utah, two candidates – democratic challenger Chuck Goode and Republican Sen. Don Ipson  (incumbent), both of St. George – are vying to represent voters in Utah Senate District 29.

Currently, there are 42,097 registered Republicans and 7,114 Democrats living in the district.

Each candidate sat down with St. George News to talk about politics and policy. After general remarks, each candidate was presented identical questions for voters to compare and contrast the answers.

Chuck Goode

For Chuck Goode, it’s hard to call anywhere home. Born into a poor family and raised in the Appalachian Mountains of North and South Carolina, his parents were constantly on the move from town to town.

Life was hard, but Goode’s salt-of-the-earth neighbors and friends always buoyed his spirits.

“People in my life were so nice,” he said. “People I remember were so helpful.”

Chuck Goode, Democratic candidate for Utah Senate District 29 general election 2020.| Photo courtesy of Chuck Goode, St. George News

Although his parents were illiterate, Goode would go on to live his high school goal of becoming an aerospace engineer though the help of many benefactors along the way.

Growing up in the age of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs inspired the young man’s dreams.

Goode would go on to work on the space shuttle program and International Space Station.

Goode decided to run because he said he felt that by throwing his hat into the political ring, it offers an opportunity to give back to a state that has given him so much. If elected, he added, he could help reset political priorities and shift the mindset of what is important.

“I think we are measuring progress by the wrong indicators,” he said. “The stock market and the gross national product do not tell how our people are doing. I want the measurement based on our poverty level, crime, homelessness, including suicide, opioid and addiction levels. Understanding these issues will help make our lives better.”

Q: Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job and what issues are most pressing?

I think I am the right candidate because of how I was raised, and helping the people at the bottom is really the best thing we can do for the economy.

For instance, it costs so much more for an emergency room visit than providing preventative care. I want to improve people’s lives before it is so bad, so expensive, that to live ruins our economy.

One of my biggest issues involves homelessness. This is something I am putting together a coalition to look at because there are so many homeless kids in the Washington County School District who live from couch to couch and get their meals at school. Southern Utah is so rich and this is something that everyone should be ashamed of happening.

Another issue is developing a fair tax system that lets the poor people catch a break and taxes wealthy people at a higher rate. By doing this, it would improve our spending on education. Our funding for schools is the lowest in the nation. We’ve always been at the bottom and we should be much higher.

My plan would not only provide much more funding for education – including technology in the classroom and for homeschooling – but also decrease the tax on local businesses and generate enough revenue to pay for Medicaid expansion so that everyone could get Medicaid and its mental health component that so many people desperately need.

Q: In light of recent events, do you see a need for police reform, and if so, what would that look like in terms of state law?

Police are asked to do things that they are just not prepared for.

We don’t need to defund, but we do need to rethink how we allocate funds to help improve the well being of people. Poverty causes us to become desperate. If you don’t have a home or food to eat, if you can’t get a job, people will become desperate and sometimes commit crimes.

The St. George Police are doing a great job, and I wouldn’t want to hold back the officers who are helping us so much as a safety net, but we need another avenue to support people and their needs in social and domestic areas.

Q: With firearms more frequently appearing at recent protests, used in school shootings and workplace violence, what are your thoughts on proposed “red flag laws” that permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of weapons from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

How would you ensure firearms don’t fall into the hands of unstable or dangerous people, which also opens up Second Amendment arguments of how far is too far and how additional legislation may infringe on law-abiding gun owners’ rights?

I support the Second Amendment, but I also support some restrictions, however. The important point is if someone is in genuine danger. There are ways to prove if someone is a danger to society and to their family and if they are, I support red flag laws.

I also support background checks. To me, it’s like an automobile. You have to be licensed to drive and background checks don’t interfere with Second Amendment rights; they are meant to protect society as a whole.

Q: When it comes to COVID-19 – or something similar happening in the future – what state-level initiatives would you support in terms of reopening a closed economy, helping struggling families, and developing guidelines or restrictions intended to slow the spread of a deadly pandemic?

My top issue is the economy, which is waiting to take off.

With COVID-19, people can’t wait to get back to work and businesses can’t wait to reopen. Everyone is chomping at the bit, but we don’t have the willpower and responsibility to wear our masks and social distance in order to prevent the spread of the virus long enough to make a lasting difference.

You have to mandate wearing masks at first, get the positivity rate below 5% and stop the number of deaths from going up.

So many other countries and cities have shown us how to do this. It happened in Prague and New Zealand who were at absolutely zero cases. Tourism and people coming in from the outside caused another wave similar to what we are seeing in America.

We have to enforce quarantine or test tourists coming into the country and not let them in because you are just asking for trouble, and that’s what is happening in New York City right now. It’s come back there because they’ve let people into their state.

We’ve got to stop letting people die, and it’s a horrible way to die. You are all alone, you are on a ventilator. It’s nothing anyone should have to go through. We need to be strict at first. I’m sorry you don’t like wearing a mask, but it’s for the good of the community and is a temporary measure.

Q: In the west, there are sensibilities not found in the east. Western states share similar concerns such as assaults on water allocations, the sovereignty of state lands, environment regulations and population growth.

What kind of assurances can you give voters that you will do what is best for Utah residents while preserving the state’s unique natural beauty, cultural identities and maintaining a favorable business climate?

I’ve lived here for 27 years and I support all of that. This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, and I love that we have public lands, national and state parks and have the chance to enjoy them. We need to protect that.

I also love the pioneer spirit and that is what is going to bring our economy back so quickly. I love people who love our freedom. We have a democracy and we don’t need someone with the power of a king. We live by principles.

Utah principles are something I support and something I believe in.

Sen. Don Ipson

After more than a decade serving in the Utah Legislature, first in the House representing District 75 in 2009, Sen. Don Ipson is making another bid for reelection to the Utah Senate District 29, a seat he’s held since 2016.

Born and raised in Panguitch, a town he describes as an awesome place to be a kid, his family did have their challenges.

“We didn’t know that we were poor, but maybe we were,” Ipson said. “We had what we needed, but it was an interesting life.”

Ipson’s great-grandfather homesteaded Panguitch, so fishing was intertwined with family life.

“My father was an avid fisherman. He fished every day of the season. When I was about 8 years old he cussed me and told me that I was eating all of the lunch, that I was too lazy to fish and he was going to take me to shore. I’m not sure he ever took me fishing again,” Ipson said with a laugh.

Utah state Sen. Don Ipson, District 29 | Profile photo, Utah State Senate, St. George News

Part of the largest graduating high school class in Panguitch history, Ipson’s dream was to become a highway patrol trooper, but genetics had other plans.

When it was discovered that Ipson was color blind, a disqualifying event at the time for law enforcement officers, the high school graduate soon gravitated to other professional pursuits, including working in the banking industry for Zions Bank, eventually holding a seat on its regional board of trustees in St. George.

Circumstances eventually found Ipson working in the trucking industry. He is currently co-owner of Gas Patch, LLC., and CEO/president of DATS Trucking Inc.

As an advocate for education, he served as chair for the Utah College of Applied Technology, and as a proponent for law enforcement, it was a natural extension to get into politics, he said.

“The community has been really good to me,” Ipson said. “Politics gave me the opportunity to give back, and I take a lot of pleasure helping others. I’ve been treated very well in the legislative body by my colleagues, and it’s been a great experience.”

As a member of Senate leadership, Ipson added, “It gives me the chance to do some good for the state of Utah, to do some good for our area, and if reelected, I will be able to serve for at least two more years and serve the people of District 29.”

Q: Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job and what issues are most pressing?

My experience and vision in leadership in the Senate gives me the upper hand in this race.

There are some very tenuous issues that need to be solved. We are working hard to solve COVID and develop an exit strategy to get the governor and the health department to figure out how to get out of this thing with as little conditional damage as possible.

We need to be on our way and get this behind us. That’s my goal.

Q: In light of recent events, do you see a need for police reform, and if so, what would that look like in terms of state law?

I think we need to review training, and I think there needs to be more training with mental health. Officers get a 911 call and they have no idea what they are responding to. They have to be everything to everybody, and I think they do an incredible job given what they have to work with.

But in our state, we have incredible police officer training and they do a really good job, and all of the police chiefs in our area are working to do the right things for the right reasons.

I am certainly, positively against the idea of the defunding police departments, period. I think they need more funding not less, and I will work to that end and get that done. I’ve done this in the past and I will continue to do that in the future.

Q: With firearms more frequently appearing at recent protests, used in school shootings and workplace violence, what are your thoughts on proposed “red flag laws” that permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of weapons from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

I think this is up to the family to do this. I don’t think this is up to law enforcement.

I have some personal history with this and I understand it, but I can tell you that I am opposed to any form of gun control.

Q: How would you ensure firearms don’t fall into the hands of unstable or dangerous people, which also opens up Second Amendment arguments of how far is too far and how additional legislation may infringe on law-abiding gun owners’ rights?

It just doesn’t work, and I don’t think it’s the state’s place to mandate things like enhanced background checks.

Q: When it comes to COVID-19 – or something similar happening in the future – what state-level initiatives would you support in terms of reopening a closed economy, helping struggling families and developing guidelines or restrictions intended to slow the spread of a deadly pandemic?

This situation as it stands today is that the number of COVID-19 cases in Washington County does not justify the amount of lockdown, which is not the right word.

But, right now there is no stress on our emergency rooms at the hospitals. There are very few new cases on a daily basis. I just looked at some data today that shows less than 10 a day. We need to open things up and open up our economy.

We are in a reconstruction period and not in a downturn. I think we need to get on with life.

The thing is that bothers me is that the concern is all based on new cases.

They are not based on hospitalizations. It’s not based on deaths. In fact, the concerns here are coming from added cases in two counties in the state. The rest of the state is not experiencing that.

We need to be on with life. We need to get this over with.

Q: Where do you fall on mandating wearing a face covering?

We have the right to do what we want to do. If people don’t want to wear a mask, I suppose that’s their right.

How is that fair to everyone else who knows, but at this point to be safe it would probably be better if everyone wore a mask, but you can’t mandate it and you can’t force people to do it. It just won’t work.

Q: In the west, there are sensibilities not found in the east. Western states share similar concerns such as assaults on water allocations, the sovereignty of state lands, environment regulations and population growth.

What kind of assurances can you give voters that you will do what is best for Utah residents while preserving the state’s unique natural beauty, cultural identities and maintaining a favorable business climate?

Starting with water rights, we have to do everything we can to protect our water – particularly in the Colorado River Compact – where we are under attract and under siege right this minute from surrounding states making moves to block our rights to steal our water that’s been going downstream to them for years.

I am committed very, very hard in changing this direction.

When we talk about education funding, 67% of Washington County is federal land. I am not one who wants to pawn the land off to just anyone, but we have to do a better job at land management. The fires we are having in the west are a classic example of this.

Had those lands had been logged and taken care, the fire devastation would have been far less than it is today.

Does that mean the state has to manage federal land, but the properties the state does manage we do a far better job than the federal government.

I am in favor of taking control of federal lands and making sure we protect them though best use techniques. Logging would have been the best use over the past 30 years, and we are paying an awfully heavy price for that not happening today.

Regarding growth, the world has discovered Southern Utah. I certainly like living here, and I’m sure there are other people who would love to live as well.

But, for the state to get involved in land planning and zoning is the wrong answer. Local government needs to manage growth, and I’m not going to tell them how to do that. I think we’ve done a really good job at managing growth up until this point.

Looking at the business climate it’s about human capital. This is what will control the growth and will make a difference if businesses are successful. It’s a question of how they can hire and retain good quality people.


Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2020 election by clicking here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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