ST. GEORGE — Piper Manesse, the United Utah Party candidate for District 72 of the Utah House of Representatives, recently spoke with Cedar City News to discuss various issues affecting the state, ranging from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to police reform.
Manesse has lived in unincorporated Iron County for four years. Born in Provo, she grew up in Cody, Wyoming, and returned to Utah the day after graduating from high school. She joined the United States Army Reserve while enrolled in college and served 20 years before retiring with the rank of sergeant first class. She is married with three grown children.
“I really think the Army taught me a lot of things about leadership,” she said. “I had a great experience in the Army and hope to bring that experience to the state legislature.”
Manesse said that like many Utahns who have a moderate viewpoint, she grew uncomfortable with the ideology of both right and left. The United Utah Party offered her a platform based upon reform and respect that she could stand behind, a welcome change from acrimonious partisanship.
This is the first time Manesse has sought political office. She faces the Republican incumbent, Rep. Rex Shipp, and Democratic challenger Lonnie White Jr.
“The United Utah Party gave me a little hope about politics,” she said. “I decided that instead of complaining, I needed to finally do something about it.”
See Manesse’s answers to Cedar City News’ questions below.
Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job, and what issues are most pressing to you?
Manesse said running as a third-party candidate makes her uniquely qualified to serve the citizens of District 72. The United Utah Party is focused on “good government” rather than building political power and employs a pragmatic approach to collaboration with both sides of the aisle.
“I am not a Democrat and I am not a Republican, and I think that gives me an edge in that I don’t have to be beholden to either of those parties,” she said. “I’m ready to get in there and work with anybody. I don’t have to care where a good policy comes from; I can support any good idea that I feel will help Utah.”
If elected, the most pressing issue Manesse plans to address in the House is adequate funding for education, with the goal of reducing class sizes and getting more teachers involved. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of education to Utah’s economy, she said, adding that “improving teacher pay is vital to our future.”
Manesse supports the United Utah Party platform for government reform, particularly imposing term limits for elected officials. Upon taking office, legislators should immediately get to work on governing rather than trying to build political power, she said.
“I also support campaign finance limits to put the power and influence back into the hands of constituents, and not the loudest and richest lobbyists up on the Hill,” she added.
In light of recent events, do you see a need for police reform? If so, what would that look like in terms of state law?
Manesse said she is grateful for the service of police officers like her brother, and the risks they assume to keep the community safe.
“It would be a complete mistake to get rid of the police department and the police force here,” she said. “But we cannot ignore that there are some things we can change within the police community that will help with those few bad apples making the news right now.”
Manesse supports body cameras for every officer and independent review boards free of police officers and families of law enforcement. When an officer is investigated for misconduct, she proposes that the inquiry remain open even if they resign and the paper trail be made available to other departments considering hiring that officer.
“These are just common sense things,” she said. “We need to work within the police departments to come up with those solutions.”
With guns more frequently appearing at recent protests, what are your thoughts on proposed red flag laws and ensuring firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands?
Having spent 20 years in the military, Manesse said she is no stranger to guns and supports the right to bear arms. She is also a proponent of legislation that would potentially keep firearms out of the hands of people who cannot use them responsibly and pose an imminent danger to the community.
“I think it’s a false sense of dichotomy when we say we’re either for the Second Amendment or for these kinds of laws; I think we can be both,” she said.
Manesse referred to a bill submitted by District 16 Rep. Stephen G. Handy during the last legislative session that would enable law enforcement to request that a court strip a firearm from someone in crisis. It garnered substantial backing within the House, she said, but vocal minority special interest groups killed it on Capitol Hill.
“It’s one of those common sense things that I support,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of support in Utah for that, and I don’t think it runs contrary to the Second Amendment at all.”
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, what state-level initiatives would you support in terms of reopening the economy, helping struggling families and any guidelines or restrictions intended to help slow the spread of the virus?
Manesse said she approves of certain actions taken by Gov. Gary Herbert and the state Legislature during the pandemic, but others have left her questioning their thought process.
“I think that it is an enormous job to figure out,” she said. “The goalposts have moved considerably as we go through this. The economy is very important, but also Utah lives are very important.”
Manesse favors placing control over mask mandates in the hands of local leaders, opining that cities and counties shouldn’t have to ask the governor for permission to respond to a spike in COVID-19 cases. However, if Herbert was to implement a statewide mask mandate today, she would honor the directive because “it’s his call.”
The best way for Utah’s economy to recover is to support businesses who want to stay open while keeping their employees and customers safe by wearing a mask, Manesse said, adding that she is disappointed with the way masks have become politicized during the pandemic. She suggests that with freedom comes responsibility and the “very small sacrifice” of a mask.
“I wear a mask every time I go outside my house and go into town because I think that’s what’s going to get us out of this situation,” she said. “Democracy has a price, and if the price I have to pay is wearing a mask, that really pales in comparison to when I was in the military and the price I was willing to pay was my life.”
Manesse said she is confident that Utah’s contemporary and future problems can be solved with “common sense legislation,” the bedrock of her campaign.
“There is an alternative to angry voices in Iron County,” she said. “I offer collaboration, cooperation and practical solutions. And I offer respect to those who have the same ideology as me, and those who differ. I think the only way we’re going to get through this is through respect for all people.”
Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2020 election by clicking here.
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