Candidate for U.S. Senate Becky Edwards. [Courtesy photo] 

Becky Edwards is running to represent Utah as a Republican in the United States Senate, challenging incumbent Republican Senator Mike Lee. Edwards has lived in Davis County for 26 years and served in the Utah House of Representatives for 10 years representing District 20, north of Salt Lake City; she retired from that position in 2018.

Before running for office she was a social worker and counselor and raised four children with her husband, John Edwards. In a press release announcing her candidacy in May, Edwards said she entered public service “to make a positive impact on the lives of our families and the prosperity of our state.” She described the current state of national politics as divisive and dysfunctional, and emphasized the need to listen to constituents and put problem-solving above politics.

Edwards has been on a statewide “listening tour,” visiting all regions of Utah to find out voters’ top concerns. She said the trip has been invigorating and she’s impressed by everyday citizens who are working to improve their communities all the time.

“I can’t tell you how inspired I have been going from community to community, meeting people and hearing those stories,” she said.

Housing and growth

Edwards visited Moab on Feb. 4 and 5 and made time to talk with the Moab Sun News about what she’s hearing from Utahns and her thoughts on addressing those issues.

“A lot of the concerns are similar,” Edwards said of the feedback she’s getting from voters in diverse areas of Utah. For example, affordable housing is a top-of-mind issue for people all over the state.

“I’m learning a lot that will be useful as a U.S. senator to help strengthen and bolster… local efforts, that I think are innovative and addressing the needs in a really locally appropriate way,” Edwards said. She believes problems are best solved at the local level, and that federal government should support local efforts and programs.

“You want to be able to give people the ability to be nimble, to use their own innovation, to address things and reason together in a community to figure out what’s best,” she said. For that to happen, she said, different layers of government and stakeholders need to collaborate.

“My ability to be an effective lawmaker has always been based on my ability to bring all voices to the table and find solutions that are more productive—proactively seeking out those voices in the community,” she said.

That kind of collaboration is lacking in Congress right now, she said.

“Like most people, I’ve watched the political dialogue continue to get more divisive and the effectiveness of Congress continue to plummet,” she said. As people lose trust in democratic institutions and issues become hyper politicized and polarized, the country’s democracy itself is threatened, she said, citing both major political parties as contributing to the problem. Dissatisfaction with the acrimony and gridlock of national politics is a sentiment Edwards has encountered throughout the state.

Another issue voters have brought up, Edwards said, is planning for growth. According to the 2020 census, Utah has the fastest growing population of any state. The pandemic generated more remote work arrangements, and that trend may outlast the pandemic to some degree, meaning workers have more flexibility to move anywhere—including remote and rural locations.

Edwards said the growth is a good thing, encouraging Utah’s economy to remain strong and diverse, but that good planning will help support and protect communities through that growth.

“How do we grow? How do we maintain some of the unique things that make Moab special, that make Utah special, make Grand County special,” while welcoming that growth, she said.

Answers to those questions will be guided at the local level, she said, but need to address things like protecting clean air and water resources; establishing diverse renewable energy sources; providing education and training that allow residents to take advantage of new job opportunities in their hometowns; ensuring the availability of affordable housing so people aren’t priced out of their hometowns; and supporting parents and women in the workforce.

“We want to make sure people have options to grow and thrive in their families and in their workplaces and help Utah’s economy continue to be the best in the nation,” Edwards said.

She mentioned Utah Governor Spencer Cox’s emphasis on expanding access to broadband internet service as one initiative that can help support particularly rural communities and equip them to benefit from economic growth and diversification. She also praised Utah State University extension campuses for their partnerships with communities and their focus on job-specific skills and knowledge.

Public lands and natural resources

On the issue of public lands, specifically the boundaries of Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, Edwards said Congress needs to put an end to what she described as “political ping-pong” as the designations have been declared, shrunk, and expanded again by executive order.

“Congress has failed over and over again to legislate this issue,” Edwards said. Legislators should “sit down, roll up your sleeves, and in this case, figure out a way to balance the very important needs for conservation, preservation, multi-use—and to figure out how we can help to meet these needs.” In 2017, Edwards voted in favor of resolutions in the state legislature recommending that the Bears Ears national monument designation be rescinded and that Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument be reduced.

On the issue of the current drought and diminishing flow of the Colorado River, Edwards said Utah and other states that rely on the river need to determine ways to use water more efficiently and conservatively—particularly Utah, which has a higher per-capita water consumption than neighboring states. She also noted that the water crisis is one part of the climate crisis, another pressing concern where she hopes to see bipartisan solutions.

“We’re seeing people come to the table on that issue too,” she said, “and a willingness to have productive conversations in a way that we have not had in the past.” She’s encouraged by discussions in congressional climate solutions caucuses about carbon pricing and expanding and diversifying renewable energy sources. Federal dollars from a recently passed infrastructure bill will help fund some water-conservation projects and renewable energy development, and some of that will happen in rural areas of Utah. In 2016, Edwards voted against Utah Senate Bill 115, which amended regulations for large-scale electric utilities and which many solar energy advocates also opposed.

Aside from what’s being talked about around dinner tables in Utah, Edwards acknowledged, U.S. Senators have to make decisions on national and global issues.

“There are a million things that are before us on a federal level,” Edwards said, and policy makers must establish relationships with experts they trust to stay educated and make decisions in the interest of Americans.

Edwards said the substantial challenges policy makers face today call for someone dedicated and collaborative, and she believes she can fill that role.

“Someone willing to have hard conversations in a productive way and work until the job’s done—we’ve never had that need more than we do right now,” she said.