Susan Horrocks is a Republican challenging incumbent Senator Kevin Van Tassell (Republican) in Senate District 26 (Vernal area). Being an inter-party fight, the two will square off this Saturday at the GOP convention, where one will either earn enough delegate votes to move on to the general election or—if neither is able to garner enough votes—they will move on to a primary election.
To learn more about susan, visit susanhorrocks.com
Utah Political Capitol sat down with the newcomer to discuss her background and why she’s running.
Jump to questions:
Who are you and why are you running?
Why do you feel Senator Van Tassell should be challenged?
What is the role of rural districts in this urban-centered state?
What do you feel is the proper role of energy production in the state?
Do you feel there should be a pipeline from the Uinta Basin to Bountiful?
How do we fund our transportation needs going forward?
Would you support a tax increase to fund roads?
What should the state do to address education and how do you feel about Common CORE?
Should we increase education funding and, if so, where does the money come from?
What did we forget to ask?
Susan Horrocks: I was born and raised in Uinta County but left to go to school at BYU with two bachelors degrees and an additional bachelors degree from Utah State University. I am running because I really think that I can do the job, I run my own business along with my two sons in the recreation industry. Before that, I was a professional educator for 27 years, but in May of 2013 I retired.
Today, well, we have 120 cattle by ourself, but we run with my father and brother so the total is well over a thousand. What is funny is that I was originally born into a sheep family, but we went into cattle because of all the regulations associated with the varmints and the critters were causing problems with where the sheep herds went.
Because of this, I have experience with the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] and the Forest Service. We also have state permits and private property which we pay taxes on so, I really feel that I know a lot and really have a feel for the people of the district.
UPC: You are challenging Senator Van Tassell, why do you feel he needs to be challenged?
SH: I signed an agreement that [Van Tassell and] I would not be negative. What I will say is that I have known Senator Van Tassell and his wife and I think a lot about that family – they are good people. I just really feel like I am the person to be senator because of all of my qualifications.
UPC: Senate District 26 is one of the rural districts in the state. What do you feel the role of rural districts in a state that is largely urban-centered?
SH: We are the people that put the food on your table, we are the ones that raise the meat and grow the vegetables. Now, they may not bring the most money into the state, but they are good people with good roots. They know how to make a decision, they know how to study it, and they know how to look down the road.
We also have people who are very interested in the land and we don’t want our land locked up. We have the issue of the Sage Grouse – if the federal government puts the Sage Grouse on the endangered species list, our land will be locked up, and I don’t want our land to be locked up. That being said, I will tell you what, Utah has a great 10 year plan to prevent [a listing on the endangered species list].
We need multi-use of our land, and people in the rural areas are good at multi-use of our lands. We know how to camp on it, we know how to run our cows on it, we know how to extract minerals, and we know how to watch out for all kinds of people and how to grow the economy here in Utah.
UPC: Let’s talk about energy production. The Uinta Basin has been booming in regards to energy production over the years. Along with that, there has been the issue of pollution both in the Basin and along the Wasatch Front as oil from the Basin is sent to refineries in Bountiful.
What do you feel the role of energy production should be with all of those issues in mind – what is your general position on energy production in the Uinta Basin?
SH: The economy and jobs are key. We have an economy here that other states take a look at, and we are growing in the area because of energy.
I was here when the bumper sticker said “last one out leaving Vernal, turn the lights out.” Now I don’t want that and I want to make sure that we can keep our economy in a situation where we have jobs.
Now, we want to make sure that, along with this energy production that we are responsible – and we are responsible. I know that in Uinta County, we have inversions sometimes, not like the Wasatch Front of course, but we do have them and we have people studding the issue and they say that the new technologies associated with production are a lot better than they used to be, and I believe that technology is improving every day to help control pollution.
If we can create jobs, we can bring back the kids that leave to get a college education, and we can create jobs by working the shale oil.
UPC: Now there is the issue of a pipeline from the Uinta Basin to the refineries in Bountiful. Some say that it will increase pollution while others contend that it will reduce it. What is your general stance on the pipeline? Do you feel that it is a necessity or do you think it is just the refineries making a play for profits?
SH: The pipeline has the most environmentally friendly option, and will take 250 to 300 trucks off the roadway daily between Uinta County to Bountiful. Lets also not forget about about the maintenance savings on our roads too, and the safety of those roads is also important.
UPC: Lets talk about transportation. UDOT has said that it is doing a good job of taking care of our major roads, but our byways are not as well taken care of due to budgets. This past legislative session we discussed raising the gas tax to help fill in the gap, particularly in rural communities. With that in mind, what is the solution in your mind to help address the state’s apparent unwillingness to raise taxes to fund those roads?
SH: I have to say kudos to UDOT. They are looking ahead and they are finding ways to fund our roads. Secondly, I have talked to a lot of my voters, and they know that the gas tax has not been increased, and though the state can tax, I ask the voters if they have any other ideas to address the issue and they have ideas such as encouraging shale oil. That money could be used to help with maintenance and the funding of new roads.
Though I don’t like the idea of alcohol consumption, another person brought up the idea of getting the state out of alcohol sales. Perhaps if private industry took over we could increase revenues.
We should take a look at what our state government and what other states are doing to encourage private industry. Once they take over, there would be more jobs and more taxes paid in that area.
I do know that if you grow your economy and get the free enterprise involved, and, you know, perhaps the raising of taxes isn’t needed and you get the money you need to do the maintenance you need to do.
UPC: Suppose your ideas do increase the tax base, but UDOT still says that it isn’t enough money. Would you support a tax increase to fund our roads?
SH: Services cost money. If people want every road in every place, they have to pay to have it built and maintained. If the citizens want the services from the state, there is no free lunch, you have to pay for it.
UPC: Shifting gears, lets talk education. On your website you talk about how you are not satisfied with the CORE system. What do you think the state should do to address education?
SH: I want you to know that I feel that the teachers in the state of Utah are very hard working. Yes, I was a teacher, but I have been around and watched teachers work. I have seen them in the trenches and they do a great job working with our biggest asset: our children. [Teachers] are helping us educate and raise our children.
Of course, our first responsibility as parents is to raise our children, but teachers step up to the plate and put in the hours and hours [to help children achieve].
[On the issue of] Common CORE. When [the administration] handed it to me, it wasn’t ready to be handed to me yet. There were no books, there were no tests, there were no quizzes, they just said “start teaching this.” We spent hours and hours and hours preparing. Now, I didn’t go to school to be a curriculum writer, yes, I knew the subjects, but we did what we had to do to make sure that kids were ready. Granted, that was a few years ago and the tests are ready, but that kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.
Now what I am looking at with the Common CORE, I see teachers who say that they love it. I have also heard from math teachers that are struggling. I have also spoke with elementary teachers and they say they too like the CORE. So, people are having different experiences with it. But what I will say is that I have a lot of the same concerns that many parents have.
One area is that parents don’t want the loss of privacy associated with all of the testing. Parents talk about how they are not interested in having an education registry, and I agree with that and I feel that that is inappropriate.
I also worry that the CORE does not encourage enough free thinking, and that this idea may be hurting children’s entrepreneurial spirit in the long run. The freedom to think and go in your mind is important, and if Common CORE is taking that away from us – I think we need go in a different direction.
Granted, I am not a state school board director. They need to be talked to, and I am listening to people to listen to their own views along with my own views. I think we need to study the issue a little more before we spend the tax dollars to change the system.
UPC: There is the constant issue of education funding. The common complaint is that teachers do as much as they can with the funds they have, but it isn’t enough. Do you feel that education funding needs to be increased in the state of Utah and, if so, where does that money come from?
SH: I always want to spend more money on education, and that is a great statement, but it isn’t always the answer to throw money at the problem. We also have to be aware that we have more children here in the state compared to others. Now, that isn’t a bad thing, it is a great thing, but we need to keep that in mind.
The other issue is that there is a lot of federal land in the state of Utah. If you go back East, it is very privatized, but in Utah there is revenue locked up because of this. There is money there that we could be getting, and we need to look at that. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had control of our state lands? I know the governor has been looking into that, and I think it is a very interesting idea. If we were getting that revenue, that could really go towards our kids.
UPC: Is there anything you would like to add?
SH: I would just like to say that I love to serve. I love, love serving the people. I hope people keep that in mind because the people are most important.
**Utah Political Capitol does not endorse any candidate or party. The views expressed by candidates are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of UPC.**