ST. GEORGE — Greg Duerden the Independent American Party candidate running for Utah governor, recently spoke with St. George News to address various issues, including the “unconstitutional” response to the COVID pandemic, the overreach of government and the misuse of authority that he said is plaguing the state at this time.
Duerden is a Utah native, father of 18 children and a grandfather to more than 70 grandchildren. He is also a veteran and a retired journalist and news broadcaster who has worked throughout Utah and across the intermountain region for more than four decades, positions which afforded him the opportunity to document and observe Utah politics.
As such, his efforts are focused on rejecting the “liberal progressive agenda” of both major political parties and returning Utah back to its constitutional roots.
For Duerden, these efforts began in high school while serving as the president of the Young Americans for Freedom. In the 1980s, he ran for a school board seat in Duchesne County. Beginning in 1991, Duerden worked to establish Utah’s National Model GRAMA legislation, work that took him two years to complete, and in 2000, he ran for an open seat for the Utah Legislature as a Utah Valley Conservative Democrat.
St. George News spoke with Duerden, who then sent an email with his responses, which have only been lightly edited for style and consistency.
Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job and what issues are most pressing?
Duerden said the most pressing issue facing the state is recovering from the unconstitutional COVID-19 response on both the state and federal levels of government by “quarantining everyone” which violated the First Amendment’s right of peaceful assembly without providing any exceptions for emergencies, limits or guidelines.
“Asking the churches to close is also a violation of religious freedom, which is also listed in the First amendment,” Duerden wrote, “and closing businesses violates the last phrase of the Fifth amendment, which says ‘government cannot take private property without due process and just compensation.’”
He went on to say that government overreach comes with consequences. He said that asking businesses to send their first two-quarter profit and loss statements to their legislators, to be compiled and sent to the federal government as part of a statewide claim, and then following that up with a $1,200 stimulus check, was in no way “just compensation” for the federal government’s actions.
He also believes the Utah Legislature should be pulled out of the “spend box” it is currently in, adding that the annual budget went from $6 billion in 2000 up to $19 billion this year. He also said he would work toward an increase in quality legislation, as opposed to quantity, citing the 800 bill ideas that result in more than 500 being passed during a legislative session.
Instead of raising taxes, Duerden proposes alternative revenue sources while eliminating sales tax on groceries entirely, as well as the gas tax, and cutting property and sales tax across the state.
Along those same lines, Duerden said he believes in “less government,” which entails cutting unnecessary programs and nullifying the Federal Department of Education mandates in Utah, including Common Core, No Child Left Behind and the English as a Second Language program.
Duerden said he believes the median salary for teachers should be raised from $39,000 to $59,000 and then adjust all salaries from there “without raising any taxes.” He also said that teachers’ salaries should be exempt from state income tax, as it is paid through a property tax, and taxing moneys derived from a tax is prohibited.
How do you think the state has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and how do you plan to handle it?
Duerden said the state has handled the crisis “atrociously,” and the actions of Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox were in violation of their oath of office “to protect and defend the state and U.S. Constitution,” he said, which should make them both “ineligible to hold any office now and forever – for breaking public trust.”
Duerden said that in Utah, the emergency was declared well before one single death was reported in the state, adding that Herbert’s announcement last month that he was extending the emergency was just a “farce” to “keep the federal money coming in.”
How would you work with the legislature on issuing emergency guidelines and mandates, such as those we’ve seen come about during the pandemic?
Duerden said the governor has no legislative authority to “order” anything, and he is required to work with the Legislature to get any law or order implemented – legally and constitutionally. He added that health guidelines are just that – guidelines – and do not hold the same weight of law and are thus not legally enforceable.
Instead, he said, as governor, he would work within the limits set forth by the Constitution by ramping up testing to identify the illness, to isolate the sick instead of the healthy and push for “a truly American solution.” He said he would get medical technology geared up and running “at light-speed” to get the state out of the “planned-demic we have found ourselves in.”
Duerden also said he would never have “foisted such a mess on the citizens of Utah,” in that he knows the limits of the governor’s authority and would not have overreached it.
Do you support the proposed Lake Powell Pipeline and why or why not?
Duerden says that St. George wants the Lake Powell Pipeline for water needs resulting from increased development, and the water that makes up Lake Powell is part of the Colorado River Compact, which gives California a “strangle hold on that water.”
Those issues will need to be settled before any construction can begin, as does the right-of-way issues concerning the Navajo Nation and other indigenous nations between Lake Powell and St George.
Moreover, going clear across the state is a huge engineering challenge, and Duerden questions whether Utah really wants yet another “Central Utah Project” type of water development, which left a number of issues still unresolved. He also cited the funding that would be needed for such a project, which would be massive, he said, and would need to be secured before anything can be started.
Until those issues are resolved, he would be against moving further on the project.
Overall, Duerden said, he took an oath when he joined the military to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic,” of which he is committed to continuing his efforts to defend, as well as the Utah Constitution.
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