Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with the leading candidates for the 3rd Congressional District.
When former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Alpine, resigned from Congress in June, Democratic opponent Kathie Allen said she definitely had to recalibrate her campaign.
Allen had, months before the resignation, announced her intent to challenge Chaffetz when he was up for re-election in 2018 — and until his resignation, her campaign was largely focused on contrasting her views with his.
When Republican John Curtis won the August primary race, Allen faced a completely different opponent than she had first expected, which necessitated some adjustment. But ultimately, she said, it has allowed her to crystallize the issues on which she wanted to focus.
“My message has been consistent,” Allen said. “I haven’t changed it to appeal to a certain group of voters. I’ve had people say, ‘You need to run as a blue dog Democrat, because that’s the only kind of Democrat that can run in this district. I’ve had Bernie supporters say, ‘No, you need to run as a pure progressive, and I’m going to apply this purity test to you.’”
She said, as a candidate, she has found her own positions with which she is comfortable, and has stuck with them.
“One thing that appeals to voters no matter where they are from is they want sincere people. So I’ve tried to be that,” Allen said.
As a physician, health care has been at the forefront of Allen’s campaign, as it has been at the forefront in Washington, D.C. as a Republican-controlled Congress has worked to find a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
She differs drastically from Curtis on the issue, and supports universal health care coverage. Her reasoning? She doesn’t believe that health care is a commodity, therefore the free market can’t fix it.
“(Health care) does not respond to free-market forces,” Allen said. “And that’s because it’s based on need rather than want.”
She compared it to Lasik surgery, which Curtis frequently touts at events as evidence that the free market can lower health care costs.
“Well I’m sorry, but that is the worst example you could use in health care, because it’s a completely elective procedure,” Allen said. “You could go and check out all of the Lasik doctors that provide that surgery, check their prices, their reputations. If you decided the cost was too expensive, and you were going to keep your glasses instead, you could walk away. You cannot walk away from a lot of health care.”
For someone diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, for example, it would be a fatal decision to walk away from health care, Allen said.
In addition, Allen said for-profit health care companies have “perverse incentives” to keep health care costs up by providing lower-quality care. If a for-profit healthcare facility could reduce a hospital stay by two days by providing better health care, they would have no incentive to do so because it would be less money for them, Allen said.
For people who have no health care access, or who are forced to use the emergency room as a primary care provider, or who simply can’t afford treatment, late diagnoses are the result, Allen said.
“What we understand from health care is that if you can prevent a disease, it’s much cheaper to take care of it. If you diagnose a disease early in the course for that disease, like diabetes for instance, you can care for that disease and help the patient keep it under control,” Allen said. “Then you are not paying for dialysis treatments, you’re not paying for that patient’s heart attack … because you prevented them.”
Allen also addressed her views on gun control following the massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead Sunday.
Allen said she supports the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives citizens a right to bear arms.
“People have a right to have guns,” Allen said. “Especially for hunting and self protection. I have no issue with that at all. I don’t want peoples’ hunting rifles.”
But she said she believes a sensible discussion about gun control can be had without people having to feel threatened that their personal weapons will be confiscated.
“As a physician who has personally witnessed gunshot wounds and watched the light go out of someone’s eyes as they died, you don’t forget scenarios like that,” Allen said.
Universal background checks and banning “bump stocks” — such as those used to convert a semi-automatic weapon to an essentially fully-automatic weapon in the Las Vegas shooting — are a couple of ways she mentioned to tighten up gun laws.
Allen mentioned a recent experience in which she observed a weapon modified with a bump stock.
“It just looks pretty much identical to an automatic machine gun,” Allen said. “It just spewed bullets all over the place. I can’t really see how that would be relevant to self-protection or hunting.”
Though Allen has trailed Curtis by about 30 points in recent polls, she pointed out that no polls have been taken since Curtis’ controversial Facebook ads advocating for building Donald Trump’s wall caused an uproar. The ads have since been taken down, and the Curtis campaign said they were a mistake made by a digital partner.
“I know he’s a popular mayor,” Allen said. “But he lost some support when he put up those ads.”
Allen plans to roll out a comprehensive media plan to boost her name recognition before Election Day.
“It’s a decision between two or three candidates that all have different points of view,” Allen said. “We certainly don’t think it’s hopeless.”
The special election is being conducted via vote by mail. Election Day is Nov. 7.
Kathie Allen: Health care does not respond to free market forces | Local Elections