Incumbent Brooks differs with Sullivan on guns, COVID-19 prevention in Utah House 75 race

L-R: Democratic challenger Rebecca Sullivan and Republican incumbent Rep. Walt Brooks are vying for House District 75 during the 2020 election cycle. | Photos courtesy of the Rebecca Sullivan's campaign and the Utah Legislature, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Republican incumbent Walt Brooks is seeking to retain his seat as Utah’s 75th House District representative and is facing Democratic challenger Rebecca Sullivan.

Both candidates spoke with St. George News on various issues from the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response, to police reform and gun laws. Their response to these issues can be found below.

Utah’s House District 75 covers a large part of St. George and the communities north along state Route 9. This also includes the communities of Gunlock and Pine Valley.

Rep. Walt Brooks – Republican incumbent

Brooks was appointed to the Utah House in September 2016 to fill the remaining time left by House representative-turned-state senator Don Ipson, who was also appointed at the time to fill the spot left by former Sen. Steve Urquhart. Brooks was subsequently elected to the position and reelected in 2018.

Brooks currently serves on various House committees, including the Transportation Interim Committee, House Rules Committee and Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.

Outside of the Legislature, Brooks is a St. George native and serves as the president of RxTrax, a software company that specializes in tracking deliveries for the pharmaceutical industry.

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

Brooks said a pressing issue is the state’s governmental overreach related to COVID-19. He pointing specifically to Gov. Gary Herbert keeping Utah in a continual state of emergency during the pandemic.

The governor renewed the order in August and has continued to do so as the state deals with the ongoing pandemic.

Brooks and other legislators have voiced their concern over the repeated use of the emergency orders, which they argue shouldn’t last over 30 days without some sort of legislative involvement.

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?

The state’s response to the pandemic is also one-sided as it doesn’t consider counter-arguments made – no matter how controversial they may be – by other medical professionals, Brooks said.

“We need to listen to both sides and I don’t think we’re doing that,” he said.

Local health departments should also have more say and control in how they respond to the pandemic within their communities, he said, especially as one corner of the state can be completely different from another.

Brooks also opposes the idea of a statewide mask mandate.

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?

“We need to do more to support our police,” Brooks said.

Locally, the community and police agencies are in a good place and law enforcement in the county enjoys a high level of support, he said.

The Legislature did pass a law outlawing officers from putting their knees on the necks of suspects, Brooks said. Yet added it felt somewhat like a knee-jerk reaction to what happened with George Floyd in Minnesota. There should be follow-up measures looking into how police are trained, he said.

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?

“I do not support any red-flag gun laws,” Brooks said. “I think we should move in the other direction.”

A “red flag” gun law would allow police to temporarily remove firearms from someone a judge is convinced to be a potential threat to themselves or others. Brooks has opposed red flag laws due to a worry they skirt due process and can be abused.

Instead, Brooks wants to make it easier for Utahns to carry concealed firearms by getting a “permitless carry” law passed. Also known as “constitutional carry,” if such a law passed Utahns wouldn’t be required to obtain a concealed carry permit from the state.

Brooks said he plans to introduce a permitless carry bill in next year’s general legislative session.

Rebecca Sullivan – Democrat challenger

According to her campaign website, Sullivan grew up in Ogden and started a career with the IRS that lasted 25 years. She advanced her career within the IRS by attending college at night while also raising two children as a divorced single mother.

She took on a new career as a financial advisor for a time and taught English in foreign counties. She also volunteered at a women’s shelter and a hospice in Ogden.

If elected, this will be Sullivan’s first time holding public office.

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

Sullivan said she is running so Brooks has Democratic competition in the race. She also wants to challenge the practice in the Legislature of modifying ballot initiatives once passed by the people.

“We don’t get what we vote for on propositions,” Sullivan said as she referenced 2018’s Props 2, 3 and 4 which passed laws related to medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion and redistricting. Each measure has been modified and retooled by the Legislature beyond what the public originally voted on, she said.

“This is wrong,” Sullivan said. “We’re voters and we have a say.”

Sullivan also said she supports reworking how Utah funds public education due to it being ranked last in the state for per-pupil funding.

Sullivan also opposes the Lake Powell Pipeline and Northern Corridor projects.

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?

Sullivan supports the governor’s recurring use of emergency declarations for as long as it is needed because parts of the populace still aren’t taking the virus and protective measures seriously, she said.

“Continue on with the state of emergency until we all join forces,” she said, adding she also supports the idea of implementing a statewide mask mandate.

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 support our police,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said she does not support the idea of defunding the police. Instead, she would like to look at how police officers are trained and provide adequate funding and resources aimed at getting police officers the training they need.

“The police will do what they are trained to do,” she said.

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?

“I support gun ownership,” Sullivan said, adding she is a gun owner and has been shooting guns since she was a little girl.

However, she also said she doesn’t like to feel threatened when she’s out in public when seeing people openly carrying pistols and rifles – as was seen during an All Lives Matter counter-protest held in August – and wondered what might be done to counter that.

“That threatens everyone,” she said.

Sullivan also said the idea of allowing the permitless concealed carry of firearms was troubling to her, and supports the continuing use of state-issued permits instead.

“Herbert shot that down six years ago,” Sullivan said, referring of a permitless carry bill that passed the Legislature in 2013, yet was subsequent vetoed by Herbert.


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.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!