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As COVID-19 has spread across the U.S., priorities and perspectives have shifted. In an effort to prevent the spread and maintain social distancing standards, some election campaigns are adjusting to new platforms and new concepts.

Tina Cannon, a candidate for Utah’s First Congressional District, has shifted her focus to social media and telecommunications to share her message and discuss current topics.

The “fierce conservative” was born and raised in Box Elder County and has since moved around a bit but always remained in the first district. Cannon announced her run for congress in August because of her desire to change the conversation in D.C. As a tax accountant, wasteful spending and small businesses are things she wants to focus on, and overall she wants to see more accountants in congress.

“Someone reached out to me and said I should explain who I am more on social media, instead of so much informational stuff,” Cannon said. “I thought about it for 24 hours and the truth is, I am a nerd, a policy wonk. I think about all of these things so deeply.”

As a business owner and two-term Morgan County Council Member, Cannon said she has a unique perspective on how COVID-19 is affecting businesses and individuals alike. Cannon sat down with The Herald Journal to share some of her experiences.

Q: What has been your experience dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak in Utah?

A: I’m a small business tax accountant and I’m over economic development for Morgan County. Because of the impact, it is hard for me to focus on a campaign for an office when my clients, who have become some of my best friends over years, are struggling. It is a difficult situation.

On top of that, I had meetings today about putting together rescue packages for small businesses.

There are a lot here for individuals and there’s a lot for larger businesses, but I am a little worried about the small business community and how it will survive.

Campaigning has not been my main focus. We have Zoom meetings and different things but at the end of the day, there are so many more important things going on. And that is also the challenge. We now have everyone sequestered at home … we wanted them when we were canvassing door-to-door, but we can’t go there. I am trying to get people to come to me and come to my home online. It has been a challenge to get the message out. I really enjoyed doing events and meeting people and having those long conversations.

Q: What are some things you have learned about protocol and leadership during this pandemic?

A: It’s been a learning experience for me to see how much of the control shifts from your elected representatives to the structure of the health department, who were not elected and those decisions that come through and when those protocol kick in, the elected step back and it is run by the health department.

Also one of the things that I’ve really learned is I know people don’t want to pay attention to a political process right now, but this is when you really should be noticing the leadership that you have because it is in a crisis that you really see the type of person, the character of a person, come out.

For example, as a small business accountant and knowing clients and then members of my chamber and being involved in the business community, I knew the impacts that were happening. We knew that a rescue package or a stimulus package needed to come out and it needed to make it possible for small businesses to be able to survive being shut down by their own government. They didn’t do anything to deserve this. But then to watch those agreements already being negotiated and then watch is the speaker of the house fly back in and change legislation and delay everything a week.

Most of the things in the bill are loans, which are hard to qualify for even when things are good. We are talking about replacing revenue for a loan. That forgiveness for the loan started the moment it was available, so to delay it a week has a huge impact on smaller businesses. I have watched that and thought “Wow, what kind of leader puts extra things in the bill to slow it down or get other things through?”

We need to be thinking about what we can be doing right now to help. Why slow down the process for a week? That was disappointing for me.

Q: What are the impacts of COVID-19 you have seen in the first congressional district?

A: Because our district is such a large land area, there are so many things about this district that are unique. When the shutdown happened, I was actually out in the Uinta Basin in Vernal for the Gun and Knife Show. That is the oil and gas industry out there. I was on a call last week with UDOT and they were saying that travel on Utah roads is down 55%. That means fewer people are using gas. That is happening across the country. This all means that the production coming out of the Uinta Basin for oil and gas manufacturing is slowing down. That impacts the jobs there.

By March 16, the ski resort, Snowbasin, had closed even though they were on track to have the best ski attendance and revenue year that they had ever had. Eight of the 15 existing ski resorts are in our district and the impact from COVID-19 is being felt by them. The sales tax on the day passes and what those resorts brought into the local economy will be lost.

Events being canceled affects employees of convention centers, hotels and many other things here in this district. The impact is widespread.

In Vernal, I stayed at a hotel who had a bunch of guests cancel their reservations the night before because of canceled events and to keep all the food from going to waste the next morning, employees had brought their families in to eat breakfast.

So much of Utah’s economy is tourism, and when things are closed down, you cut down fuel purchases, convenience store purchases. All of these things that our economy is based on have to do with social interaction. There are some people that $1,200 is not going to put a dent in what they need to stay afloat.

I am worried about inflation hitting, when we start seeing prices rise, and what that will do to the people in this district. I hope that we are able to bounce in a “V” shape and as we go down we will rebound.

Q: What is your focus going forward?

A: As we think about how we can make sure this never happens again, we also have to focus on trying to flatten the curve so we don’t overwhelm the medical system right now. It has been hard because we didn’t have the supplies in place. One of the reasons that happened is because it is too expensive to manufacture inside the United States in comparison to other countries.

There are ways that we need to address that right now, going forward. We will bounce back in our economy if we start manufacturing inside the U.S. Instead of incentivizing people to just go out and spend what they already have, we should incentivize what we need for the next time this happens so we never get caught like this again.

The face masks, the gowns and medical equipment need to be manufactured here, not in China. The only penicillin that is manufactured is manufactured in China; we need to have it here.

If you incentivize opportunity zones, it could happen immediately, and that money that was running out of the stock market could have some place to go and could generate a return.

I know that sounds almost like an America-first philosophy, but if you are not strong, it is the same as the lifeboat analogy. You cannot sink your lifeboat, you have to rescue from a place of strength.

We have seen American companies step up and start manufacturing face masks and gowns, and when we see that happening we should encourage it and reward it so as we recover both economically and physically and emotionally and medically that we reinforce all of those areas and we become the world’s rescuer next time. It is only from a position of strength that you can help the world around you. That is important.

In her Facebook Live videos, Cannon shares the impact of COVID-19 on national security and small businesses. Her Facebook page is titled “Tina Cannon For Congress.”

She is also hosting Zoom Meetings a couple times a week and information about those can be found on Facebook or votetinacannon.com.

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