Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I don't like Taz Murray, and why I will give Keven Stratton the benefit of the doubt

In the months prior to this primary, I discovered that I was on the Republican primary mailing list. It's hard to gain a more favorable impression of candidates from these emails, because they are all almost perfect cookie-cutter imitations of each other - each proclaims the candidate's dedication to shrinking our government to the size of Somalia's, mentions the candidate's strong background, business or otherwise, and includes some endorsement or other.

Although it is hard to find "diamond in the rough" candidates from such emails, Taz Murray, our most voluminous writer, made my job of being an informed voter much easier with these two emails, which I have posted below. For someone like me, who had never heard of either candidate until recently, it was especially helpful, and helped begin forming my opinion before I attended the debate a couple of weeks ago, which I will also write about in the post. For now, here is what I found unimpressive about these two emails:

Unimpressive email #1

No Child Left Behind
I will admit that I know very little about how to improve our education system. My gut feeling is that NCLB punishes schools for failing to achieve unrealistic standards, and that we could do much better than that, but you won't see me unveiling a more efficient educational master plan any time soon. Education reform is a complicated subject that I won't go into deeply until I feel like I actually know something about it.

Still, I am a strong supporter of logic, something that Murray's email is severely lacking. Utah falling from 38th place to 41st place is not credible evidence against NCLB's effectiveness. NCLB, whatever you believe it was, either helped all states or hurt all states, which would not have had any influence on Utah's ranking among those states.

Utah: The best and the worst state?
You could tell me that Utah is the very worst state in terms of educational outcomes, or the very best, and I wouldn't know where to find evidence to prove you wrong either way. I am certain, however, that it is not both. I find it rather peculiar that Murray talks about how Utah is falling behind educationally, and then in the same breath, says that despite lower per-capita spending, it has some of the best educational outcomes. Whatever his plans are for "education reform," I don't think he can implement effective reforms until he has his diagnosis correct, which apparently is unlikely to happen.

Unimpressive email #2
I must commend him for his honesty in this one. He immediately declares his conflict of interest, that he owns a candy business. Still, merely acknowledging that "childhood obesity is a serious issue" is a far cry from solving it. While there are many things the private sector does quite well, there are other things that the government does better. Drawing an appropriate analogy, I believe that in our society, we tend to over-medicate, resulting in worse health and higher costs. Also, I would hope that every physician has an appreciation for all of the marvelous things the human body does on its own if given proper nutrition, rest, and exercise. Still, if I get cancer, and my doctor tells me to eat better, exercise more, and let my body take care of the problem, I'm finding a new doctor.

In the case of rising obesity, I am certain that there is room for debate for what the government should do to efficiently and effectively combat this. Still, whatever the government is currently doing to combat obesity is, I am sure, much better than whatever our candy-business owner would propose.

Besides, a state legislator has no clout in this matter anyway.

This was the only debate I attended. I Wish I had more time to write about this before I go, but I think that the exchange between Murray and the moderator at 53 mins. is telling. In a debate, most of the time candidates can make up whatever statistics they choose, and nobody ever calls them out on it. This debate was particularly vulnerable to such fiction, since there will be no Democratic candidate to face. Utah "Democrats" are very different from national Democrats, and if Republican candidates don't even have to think about Utah "Democrats", then I think that gives all of us very real reason to fear what sort of kooks the primary cooks up.

Anyway, I was very pleased to see the moderator politely interject with actual statistics, refuting Murray's claim that Utah's government was growing too fast. Murray was quick to insist that his fictitious statistics were in fact true. As I watched, I could see the cogs turning in the moderator's head. If he insisted that his statistics were correct, he would look like he was taking sides in the debate, which he isn't supposed to do. On the other hand, could he allow a false statistic to govern the debate?

It appears that Murray has the skill - invaluable to being elected - of insisting that you are right and you know everything. He may not have the skill of listening to others, which is absolutely necessary in governing effectively.

Hasty Conclusion
I wish that I could write more, but I really have to go. I can't say much about Stratton except that he hasn't said or written anything super crazy, and seems like a good guy. 


  1. I'm shocked to find nothing about Kevin Stratton right after reading your advice to not vote for anyone you have not researched.

  2. I've researched him plenty, and I could tell you how to spell his first name, all of his basic background information, and my impressions from the debate (which ended up being more of a nice contest than a debate). I just don't have anything particularly interesting to write about him. Some people talk because they like to hear themselves speak. I'm not one of them. If I don't have anything informative or interesting to write, I won't write anything.

    I wish that I had a silver bullet for knowing when a candidate is a saint or when he is Satan, but sometimes, the time I invest in research is less fruitful than I would like it to be, despite my continual efforts to improve. However, I do my best to get informed in whatever way I can, and then try to start an informal dialogue, which is extremely important if we are to make information a more powerful force than money in our elections.

    Also, perhaps a better thing to write, though too lengthy to include in a Facebook status (thank goodness for blogs), is that not everybody has the time to look up each candidate's campaign contributions on raw data websites like or I've tried analyzing those numbers a couple of times, but so far have had no success in deconstructing what those contributors stand for, what kind of legislation they are pushing, and how that would adversely affect the US or Utah.

    There is a concept in economics called "rational ignorance." When you buy a car, it won't be the absolute best value for the money you spent. Somewhere out there, there's a car that is both better and cheaper than the car you bought. But it costs too much time to find that better car, so you settle with the one you find, after spending a reasonable amount of time and effort searching.

    It's OK to vote for one candidate because you don't like his opponent. If you're short on time, it's OK to vote for someone because an intelligent, trusted friend or family member likes him. It is not OK to vote for someone because their name sounds familiar. It is not OK to feel obligated to fill in all of the blanks (I will not vote in the County Commissioner election, for example). In the general election, it is not OK to checkmark that thoughtless, lazyman's box labeled "Republican", or "Democrat" (I hope that Utah LDS Republican Senator Killpack's drunk driving adventure taught us that).

    Perhaps that philosophy of informed voting is shocking. But perhaps even more shocking is that someone even bothered to blog about local politics. I hope that I am shocked by others doing this in the future, and perhaps I will even be shocked today by people commenting on this blog who would like to defend Murray or write something interesting about Stratton.