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Utah House candidates focus on bipartisanship at debate


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two candidates aiming to represent the congressional district that includes Box Elder County faced off in a debate last Thursday and discussed the importance of bipartisanship and whether they would support nominating a new Supreme Court justice before the election.

The bid to represent Utah’s 1st congressional district is an open race for the first time in nearly two decades following the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop who became well-known for his outspoken policies on public lands.

The battle involves two candidates vying for the middle ground amid an increasingly bitter political divide in the United States. The Republican candidate Blake Moore, a conservative Salt Lake City businessman, is favored to win in a heavily Republican district that has not elected a Democrat to the seat in more than 40 years. Moore has said he’ll vote to reelect President Donald Trump but declined to elaborate on the president’s policies.

Democratic candidate Darren Parry, a former Shoshone tribe chairman, is looking to beat those odds and end the drought. He is running as a moderate and says he will prioritize marginalized communities on issues related to the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice.

Both candidates stressed the importance of bipartisan cooperation in Congress during a debate Thursday.

“We have got to get the partisan politics out of this,” Parry said. “We’ve got to make decisions that reflect our values.”

Moore said that there is plenty of time for Trump and the Senate to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Parry disagreed, saying that no replacement should be made in the last year of a president’s term.

Moore and Parry both said they did not support some Democrats’ plan to pack the court with progressives in retaliation.

The race could be the best shot Democrats have at filling the seat in the coming decade now that a Republican candidate no longer holds an incumbency advantage, said Damon Cann, a political science professor at Utah State University. The district is 12% Democrat with nearly 52% of voters registered as Republican and 36% as unaffiliated or third-party voters, according to state elections data.

“The right strategy is to run moderate in this district,” said Cann. “The opportunity would have clearly been squandered if they nominated a core leftist.”

Moore and Parry agree on several key policy areas: both are pro-life, support the Second Amendment and have vowed to keep taxes low. But they differ on the subject of public lands, which continues to be a top priority for the district’s voters.

Moore’s views on public lands most closely align with those of Bishop, who was roundly criticized for embracing President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce by nearly 85% the Bears Ears National Monument — a national monument established by President Barack Obama in 2016. Moore said he supports transferring land back to Utah in some instances so that the state can dictate how it is used.

“This all comes down to balance and making sure we’re being thoughtful about how we go about doing it,” said Moore.

Parry, meanwhile, is wholly against ceding control of public lands to Utah because he fears the state would sell them to extraction industries or private landowners. Native groups were among those pushing for the creation of Bears Ears, and said that such designations are needed to protect important archaeological and cultural resources.

“I will fight every day to make sure public lands stay public, stay under federal control,” Parry said.

Neither candidate has run for political office before this race, but Moore says his experience working in the foreign service in southeast Asia and his current role at Cicero Group, a management consulting firm, makes him uniquely positioned to represent Utah because of his exposure to many areas of the private and public sectors.

Parry, meanwhile, said being a tribal leader has taught him how to build bridges with local communities and the federal government — a trait he says would be especially useful in a polarized Congress.

John Page of Plain City said he likes both candidates but is now leaning toward Parry because his stance on public lands differs greatly from Bishop’s. Page is a Democrat but registered as a Republican to vote for Moore in the June primaries with the hope that he would beat some of his more conservative opponents.

“As long as we’ve got somebody in there who will not proceed down that road that Bishop pushed for years in selling off our public lands… that would be best,” said Page, who is a teacher at a technical college.

Craig Johnson of Sunset is an unaffiliated voter who plans to vote for Moore because of his character and pragmatism. Johnson says he supports Rep. Ben McAdams, Utah’s sole Democratic congressman, and thinks he and Moore are very similar in how they conduct themselves.

“The thing that really sealed it for me was Blake didn’t have the vitriolic rhetoric that I heard from a lot of the other candidates,” said Johnson, who is also a teacher. “We need to be electing people of character.”

Brigham City man, police officer struck during car chase

A Salt Lake City woman accused of hitting a Brigham City man and a police officer with a vehicle during a police chase has been charged in 1st District Court.

Ryanna Kerry Ramcke, 21, has been charged with second-degree failure to stop at the command of police, second-degree assault against a peace officer, third-degree failure to stop at serious injury accident, third-degree driving under the influence and six additional felony and misdemeanor charges.

Last Tuesday, Brigham City Police officers attempted to stop a reckless driver in a Toyota Corolla heading east on Westland Drive. Police wrote the vehicle then accelerated, reaching speeds up to 50 miles per hour. The vehicle was occupied by two individuals, according to police, who drove north to Fishburn Drive.

“As the vehicle approached the intersection it did not stop at the stop sign and continued at a high rate of speed,” police wrote. “It nearly jumped the entire intersection and then hit a pedestrian in the driveway in front of his home.”

According to an indictment filed with the court, the man was watering his lawn when he was struck by Ramcke — he was allegedly thrown nearly 40 feet. He sustained serious injuries requiring surgery, the document states, including a broken leg and injured arm.

Ramcke continued driving through the yards of homes before returning to the road and being pitted by officers.

The vehicle was stopped at a Latter-day Saint church and the driver wouldn’t exit the vehicle. Though high-centered and unable to move significantly, police wrote Ramcke tried to put the vehicle in reverse and struck an officer.

According to the indictment, the officer was knocked over but sustained only minor injuries.

Police wrote Ramcke admitted to using methamphetamine and heroin earlier in the day and had paraphernalia in the vehicle.

Ramcke is currently on parole and is being held in the Box Elder County Jail.

All in the family: Munns farm in Elwood gets Utah Century Farm status

Paul Munns had a rude introduction to running a farm.

Munns had recently returned from his LDS mission, got married, and leased the 50-acre farm in Elwood that his father, Archie, had operated for nearly four decades. With the future looking bright, Paul decided to plant the whole farm with sugar beets, the top cash crop in the Bear River Valley at the time.

Winter came early that year. The rain started in September, temperatures started to drop earlier than usual, and the beets froze before he could get a single one out of the ground.

His first crop was a total loss. After a normal harvest, he would have received a check in the mail worth around $10,000. Instead, he opened the letter to find a $2,500 bill for labor and supplies.

“Things were pretty tough,” Munns said. “We started out the hard way, but we learned to become very cautious after that.”

He didn’t give up, and that perseverance has paid off. Mother Nature cooperated in the ensuing years, the beet crops were good, and Munns was able to get a government loan to take ownership of the farm and cut his father a check.

“He had it for 40 years when I bought it from him and never had it paid for, so he was excited when I was able to give him a check that paid it out,” he said. “It meant a lot to me knowing what dad went through, the Depression, some hard times.”

Paul has a lot of childhood memories working on the farm with his dad, including coming up with what Paul’s son Rodger calls the “first hybrid tractor.”

The family got its first tractor in 1953, but soon discovered that it didn’t have enough power on its own to plow through the heavy ground, so Archie decided to bring in some more primitive technology.

“He hitched up some horses on the front of tractor and rode that cowboy style, going back and forth,” Paul recalls. “People were stopping to take pictures, waving at us. They thought it was really weird.”

A lot has changed since Archie Munns started the farm in 1920. The family now owns the farm outright, and today it encompasses 800 acres — 500 of which the family owns, with the remaining 300 leased — scattered across several parcels throughout the area. With sugar beets largely a thing of the past, the Munns’ fields are now filled with wheat, alfalfa and corn. The family farmhouse is still there, but is larger now after several additions over the years.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the name on the deed. The farm remains in the hands of the Munns family, with Rodger now in charge. In recognition of 100 years of ownership and continuous operation under the watch of the same family, it recently became the latest to receive the title of Utah Century Farm.

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the family got together at the place where it all started to celebrate its new status and reflect on a century of hardships, successes, struggles and happiness.

Mike Pace, Utah State University Extension agent for Box Elder County, helped with the process by verifying official ownership records and submitting them for review by the Utah Farm Bureau Federation and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, the entities that administer the Utah Century Farm program.

Pace said it’s becoming increasingly rare to see a farm stay in one family that long, as it has become more and more difficult to make a living in agriculture.

“When you look at what’s going on in Box Elder County in general, the farms that are left are getting bigger,” he said. “These small farms, nobody wants to take them up. It’s a stressful life, but it’s a good life.”

It’s part of Pace’s job to present Utah Century Farms in the county with an official certificate and a sign to place in front of their property informing passersby of the milestone, and he was at the celebration to do just that. In this case, he was presenting to friends and neighbors, having moved with his family to the area 17 years ago.

“They’re just up the road from me,” he said. “They’re some of the first people we met when we moved here. Sometimes I don’t know the people I’m presenting to, so it was kind of fun to be able to do that.”

Over the years, Paul had to work other jobs to support the farm, first as a mail delivery man in Tremonton and later as a firefighter at Hill Air Force Base.

In addition to all the hard work, uncertainty and financial difficulty, Paul has nearly lost his life in the course of his work – not once, but twice.

While baling straw for a neighbor during his senior year in high school, his skull and jaw were partially crushed when his head became caught between two tractors. The family doctor in Tremonton said he wouldn’t survive, but sent him to Brigham City upon his parents’ insistence. As luck would have it, doctors there were able to track down a former World War II medic who was attending a conference in Salt Lake City and had treated a similar injury before.

After he recovered, he met the manager of a lumber operation in Tremonton who happened to be the driver of the ambulance that took him to Brigham City.

“They told him ‘We’re sending this young man to Brigham City as a favor to his parents. He won’t live long enough to get there, so when he dies, just turn around and bring him back,’” Paul said. “They got there and I was still alive, so he sat on the lawn and waited for a half hour, then gave up and came home.”

About 10 years ago, Paul was using a pump to get the diesel fuel out of a storage tank when the pump exploded. The side of the storage tank blew out and the pump hit him squarely, severely dislocating his left hip and breaking numerous bones.

“That pump hit me like a rocket,” he said. “They found me 30 feet away. I must have skidded on my face for a while because I had rocks in my mouth.”

A man who happened to be staying on the property at the time heard the explosion, came running and called an ambulance to rush him to a hospital in Ogden.

“If he hadn’t been there, I would have died in that position,” he said.

The doctor who admitted him in Ogden also happened to be a former war medic, and said he had never seen anyone survive such physical trauma.

“I don’t know how my life was spared both times,” Paul said. “I’m lucky to be here.”

But he is still here, and at 83 years old still works on the farm, repairing machinery and helping with whatever tasks he still can. Rodger oversees the operation these days, and along with one hired hand, the father and son are keeping the farm going.

After going on a mission and then on to earn a college degree, Rodger still decided to stick with the farm. It’s a lot harder these days to find help than it used to be, but Rodger said he’s motivated to keep it going when he thinks about all the difficulties his father and grandfather faced over the years.

“My grandpa when he was farming, one year he took his beet check to the bank during the depression and the bank went broke, so he lost all that money,” he said. “I don’t want it to be like some people, when the father dies, the farm is totally lost.”

Rodger has a three-year-old son, Bryce, who accompanies him on daily chores and seems to be taking a shine to farm life.

“He wants to be a farmer, too,” Rodger said.

It might be a coincidence, but Paul, the youngest of 12 children, was born when Archie was 48 years old – the same age as Rodger when Bryce was born.

“I hope (Bryce) likes it, but if he doesn’t want to, it’s not mandatory that he farm,” Paul said. “I don’t know what the future will be.”

All around the Munns’ property are reminders of its past – old farm implements, the first tractor Paul purchased in 1957, and an old windmill that was a favorite of his first wife, Margaret, who died in 2004 after battling pancreatic cancer.

After Margaret’s death, Paul penned a poem about the windmill in her memory, and one of its verses might be used to sum up the Munns’ journey that has kept the farm in the family for 100 years:

“If we think of life’s problems/They are somewhat the same/When we face them and solve them/We have something to gain.”