Election '22: Q&A with Becky Edwards

A short chat with former state rep. Becky Edwards, candidate for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary.

Whether you know or not, the race for one of Utah’s U.S. senate seats has already begun in earnest. Though the general election will be held in November of 2022, the winner of the Republican primary election will be the heavy favorite to hold the seat for the party. Sen. Mike Lee (R), the incumbent and favorite, will run for re-election, while two more candidates from the more moderate wing of the party, Ally Isom and Becky Edwards, have already entered the race.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with former state representative Becky Edwards and ask her a few questions. The following transcript of our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Adam Stevenson: Why did you enter this primary?

Becky Edwards: Like most Utahans, and people across the nation, I have noticed the dysfunction of our elected officials. It became more about partisan bickering than solving problems. I reflected on my experience in the Utah house for 10 years—it was always about working with anyone to work for solutions for the people of Utah. This led to so many good things—for the people and businesses of Utah.

Adam: What led you to take that approach?

Becky: [My] background as a social worker. I love stories. I love understanding experiences. It was actually not a leap to move into the political sphere and take that approach. Reasoning together to solve problems. Every Saturday during the session I would open up my house and people would share their stories—from a father with a daughter who couldn’t afford insurance, or a mother with a son with autism—as she wondered what educational opportunities he would have. Those stories matter, they helped me understand the issues in a personal way. They gave me a leg up when discussing these issues. 

Adam: What lessons can Utah political culture teach our national political culture?

Becky: We talk about the ‘Utah way.’ We hear that phrase  a lot. We sit at the table with people across so many divides, in an inclusive way, to make sure the people at the table have a voice. We see that in the Utah way—[where we have scene unique legislative compromises on] immigration and [LGBTQ] issues. That was my priority. I think we make better solutions when we adhere to that. 

Adam: In what areas do you think that Senator Mike Lee’s leadership or voting record have been deficient?

Becky: I have deep concerns when I cannot connect the concerns of our incumbent with the needs of Utah businesses and people. I led out on really complex issues related to growth, affordable housing, climate, health care. These are things that deeply concern Utah families. I think we deserve better, I think we can have better. People are excited to have a better option. 

Adam: What do you think are the most urgent problems facing our country at this point? What are the most urgent problems facing Utah?

Becky: The political divisiveness is something that is really damaging to our democracy. It’s deeply concerning. The angry rhetoric is so dysfunctional and not productive or effective. And it leaves the American people without any solutions. And it begins with sitting at the table and solving problems for the American people. 

Adam: What influences have shaped the way you view politics? In other words, what are the biggest building blocks of your political world-view?

Becky: You know, I think we have had great leaders in the past, including Abraham Lincoln and his so-called Team of Rivals. He brought people that he knew who had differences of opinion to the table. We have a similar divide today. We need to look at the past, [to] Republican leaders, conservative leaders, who didn’t shy away from working across the aisle. People who are able to adhere to conservative principles: individual responsibility, fiscal responsibility, etc. More Utahans want to see this. 

Adam: You’ve described yourself as a classical conservative, what does that mean for you? What other politicians would you describe as classically conservative?

Becky: [It has to do with the] conservative principles I hold dear. The idea of fiscal responsibility, that matters to our children and grand-children. I want them to have the very same opportunities that I had growing up in Provo. These are the same things the mom in Ephraim told me last week she cares about. These principles of conservatism are foundational for the future of the Republican Party. We do better when we remember those and legislate around those principles. [The politicians I would describe as classically conservative are] those individuals who are in elected office and willing to come together—those are the people that I admire. It’s easy to say no, it’s hard work to fight for solutions. That’s what matters to the future of our state.

Adam: What is your position on term limits?

Becky: I am a strong believer in term limits. I told people that if I was fortunate enough to be elected 5 times I would step down. And I did step down. At the height of my political influence, I did step down. I know it’s hard, but it’s important to keep your word. Sen. Lee campaigned on term limits, this needs to be important to him in 2022. [My decision to step down] was a personal decision, something I strongly believed was important. There were issues that I was in the middle of working on and were important, and were important things for the people who elected me. The most important thing was staying true to my word. If something is important to you, it’s the best thing to ensure limited principles. You don’t wait for the government [to compel you], you follow your conscience and your personal moral code. I think I’m sort of helping Sen. Lee keep his word, the promises he made and campaigned on in 2010.

Adam: What is your take on the conflict regarding the creation and subsequent reduction of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument?

Becky: Great question. This is an issue that matters a lot. We hold our public lands in high regards. As [both] early settlers in this state and indigenous people. These lands are very important to people. The national monument that came down by executive order, it should’t be a political ping-pong. It’s not good for Utah or the people who live in those areas. There is a way where we can have a measured approach on public lands. It starts by having conversations.