CEDAR CITY — Democratic candidate Lonnie White, a political newcomer, is challenging incumbent Rep. Rex Shipp for the Utah House seat in District 72. The three-way race also includes Piper Manesse of the United Utah Party.
White, a longtime Cedar City resident, says growing up in a difficult environment is one of the things that has motivated him to run for public office.
White said his life started in an unstable home full of drug abuse and violence. He went from homelessness and hunger to being bounced around the foster care system. By the time he was 18, he had been kicked out of his home, had dropped out of school and was a father.
What followed for White are years of hard work and building a family and life that he is proud of.
“I have found myself knocked down and hurt by bad decisions made by people at the top that overwhelmingly hurt the people at the bottom,” he said, adding that he is running to try to stop such damage.
“There is a lot more that we can do for our troubled youth, just like me,” White said. “So that’s pretty much why I decided to run. That, and the dismal state of our country right now.”
“I’m running for House District 72 to finally give a voice and representation to people just like me, the forgotten and disenfranchised working class and poor of our state,” he added. “It is clear from the complete disregard of the ballot initiatives passed by the people and the total disaster that was the tax reform bill that our current representatives are incapable and unwilling to legislate outside of special interests and greed.”
White and his wife Brittanie are the parents of two children, a high-school age daughter and a son in middle school.
Following are White’s responses to Cedar City News’ questions asked of each candidate.
Why do you think you’re the right candidate for the job and what issues are most pressing to you?
White noted that Iron County is the second poorest county in the state by per-capita income.
“People here are struggling to just get by, including my family,” he said. “That is why I am the right candidate to represent our district at this time. We need someone from the working class to fight for the working class.”
“I’m just trying to give a voice to the working class people like me that might have worked their way up from a less than desirable situation but still can’t really seem to get ahead.”
“I’d like to be the representative that doesn’t just climb the ladder, but reaches back and puts a hand out to try to pull somebody else out,” he added.
White listed several key issues that he plans to focus on and advocate for, including workers’ rights, inpatient drug and mental health facilities across the state, programs to help at-risk youth, raising the minimum wage and protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals.
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?
White says he advocates a major overhaul of law enforcement.
“Not only do we need police reform, our whole justice system needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up,” he said. “Steps in the right direction would be all municipalities having citizen review boards, mandatory body cameras and ending qualified immunity.”
White said he was disappointed to learn that current District 72 Rep. Shipp voted against a bill banning knee-on-neck chokeholds by law enforcement officers. The legislation, sponsored by Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, passed the Utah House on a 69-5 vote and was signed into law by the governor in June.
“Only five legislators voted against it; Shipp was one of them,” White 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?
“First, I would like to state that I do own guns and enjoy target shooting with my daughter,” White said. “I do support red flag laws, but I have concerns with the loopholes that are in them.”
As an example, White said a person might simply hide a firearm out of sight if police are called to a domestic violence situation at a home and start asking questions. Or, he said, they might circumvent the law by legally selling the gun to a family member, with the intention of getting it back later.
“It’s in another family member’s name, no big deal. You can buy guns and sell guns third party here so easily that there’s no real way of telling who has what and who gave away what,” he said.
“We need stronger laws with harsher punishment to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from having them,” White added.
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?
“First, we need to be honest about the fact that this administration failed our country as a whole,” White said. “We have local government officials who have turned this pandemic into a political fight that it never should have been.”
“That said, we know we can’t reopen the economy until we slow the spread of the virus,” he said. “We must have a statewide mandate for masks and strict social distancing. These are not difficult things to follow if it means protecting each other and slowing the spread.”
White said although he doesn’t like wearing masks, he understands why they are important in helping slow the spread of the virus.
“I hate the masks, personally. But I wear them because that is the necessity of today’s need.”
“I think we’re to the point where we need a nationwide mandate on masks and not just keep playing it by ear,” he added. “If other countries have been able to beat it down and squash it, so should we as the leader of the free world.”
White offered words of encouragement to those who are already in dire circumstances as a result of the pandemic.
“To the families that are struggling or have already been evicted, I am sorry that our federal and state governments have failed you,” he said. “Please reach out to Workforce Services and Iron County Care and Share for help with resources that have been made available.”
Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2020 election by clicking here.
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