Local candidates make plea to millennials, clash over Lake Powell pipeline at DSU forum

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Candidates for the Utah Legislature debated local political issues and made their plea for the millennials’ vote at the Utah Priorities Forum at Dixie State University Oct. 11. 

The event, which was hosted by the DSU Institute of Politics, drew Democrats and Republicans from across Washington County to the Zion Room of the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons to hear from the local contenders for the Utah House of Representatives and Senate seats open for re-election in November. The candidates were each given 60 seconds to answer questions that ranged from jobs in Washington County to the proposed Lake Powell pipeline project. 

Dorothy Engelman, Sen. Don Ipson, Chuck Goode, Rep. Bradley Last, Rep. Jon Stanard, Rep. Lowry Snow and Rep. Walt Brooks all attended the forum.

“The elections may be rigged at the national level, but they’re not rigged at the local level,” said Nicole Gregory, a junior history major from West Orange, New Jersey, and one of the few students at the forum. “Our vote matters in these local races, which is why I wish there were more students that attended (the forum).”

Jobs and wages

All the candidates agreed that businesses and jobs in Washington County could improve. Engelman, a Democrat running for Senate District 29, said in order for St. George to grow, it must attract millennials by raising the minimum wage and adding higher quality professional jobs.

“We don’t need anymore distribution centers here,” Engelman said.

Engelman was alone in saying the minimum wage should be increased. Even Goode, the other Democrat in the room running for House District 71, said “what we need is a productivity increase—not a wage increase.”  

Ipson, a current Republican Senator representing District 29, said higher education and technical training programs in Washington County needed to be revamped before better jobs could come.

“When the economy went down, people started to go back to school; people started to get trained,” Ipson said. “That has started to decline in Southern Utah. Employers can’t even find any employees for any price now.”

Lake Powell Pipeline 

It was no Presidential Debate, but emotions were high as the Democrats clashed with the Republicans over the proposed Lake Powell pipeline project, which if approved, would transport water from Lake Powell to Washington County. Initial estimates have the project costing around $1 billion. 

Questions written on slips of paper from the audience asked the candidates to defend the tax hikes which would be implemented to pay for the project. The Democrat candidates at the forum said the pipeline was unnecessary and could be prevented by conserving water more effectively. The Republicans all said the pipeline was needed to keep up with the rising water demands in St. George. 

“If you want water to come out of your tap when you turn it on, and if you want to flush your toilet, then [taxpayers] will have to pay for the pipeline,” said Last, the vice president of advancement at DSU and a current Republican in the House of Representatives representing District 71.

Both Goode and Engelman said they were “firmly against” the Lake Powell Pipeline.

“Before we even think of spending money on the Lake Powell Pipeline, there are many other options that need to be looked at before we ever get close to it,” Engelman said. 


Each candidate made their plea for why millennials should be involved in politics and in the local elections.

Last said the politics that affect people the most are local politics, and millennials are a voting bloc that can make the difference in local races. 

“The further the politics are from the community, the less direct the impact is in people’s lives,” Last said. “So if students at Dixie State are concerned about the things that are happening on campus, they need to be involved in politics to help bring changes.”

Engelman said the Pizza and Politics events at DSU have been beneficial for students to learn more about the local political issues, as well as the national ones. She said she’s been attending the Pizza and Politics events to speak with students and learn about the issues they care about.

“Millennials are going to save us,” Goode said. “Thank God for them. The old white-headed guys up here are moving out and they’re going to be replaced by people who are inclusive, diverse and accepting.”