On March 3, Utah will have a voice in the Democratic primary for the first time. Our voters will choose between a highly-contested pool of candidates, one of whom will go on to face President Donald Trump in the general election this November.
Utah is a Super Tuesday state. Our 35 delegates are part of the 1,357 that are up for grabs on the same day. We’re also an open primary state, meaning any registered voter is able to participate.
Candidates must meet a threshold of at least 15% at the statewide level in order to be considered viable. Our delegates will then be allocated proportionally based on the results.
Since Utah has become part of Super Tuesday, our state has been somewhat overlooked by national media. Sanders led the only poll that was taken in January, but since Michael Bloomberg has taken over the airwaves, our primary results are up in the air.
The January poll showed that more than 20% of voters are still undecided. For those undecided voters, I will provide a short summary of where each candidate stands on the policies.
Though this article will focus heavily on policy issues typically important to Democratic voters, note that according to a February survey by the Pew Research Center, Democrats said they would rather back a candidate with the best chance of beating President Trump than one who agrees with them on their top policy issues.
This has made electability a key focus in every Democratic debate this year so far. Each candidate is out to prove that they can beat Trump, and according to a national survey by NBC, Bernie Sanders currently has the best chance, with 52% of voters saying they would vote for him over President Trump.
Keeping that in mind, here’s where the candidates stand on major policy issues.
Healthcare: Though the Affordable Care Act extended health coverage to 20 million Americans, every candidate agrees the government needs to do more to cover the remaining uninsured. However, healthcare may be the most divisive issue among the candidates. Progressive candidates say that every American should be covered under Medicare For All. More centrist candidates think that system would be too costly and instead support more incremental expansions.
Medicare For All, a plan written by Sanders, would guarantee no-cost coverage for a wide range of benefits. It would eliminate private health insurance and cover dental services, long-term care, abortion and more.
Elizabeth Warren also supports Medicare For All, but her plan would have the U.S. transition to the system within three years.
Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer support a public option, which would allow Americans to join Medicare for All by their own choice. This would have the government-run health plan competing with private insurers, allowing more people to buy into Medicare or Medicaid.
Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar are wary of disavowing the ACA altogether. They think health reforms should be made slowly, starting by improving on the ACA and then potentially adding a public option.
Abortion: As one of the most contentious and divisive issues in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade in 1973, the abortion debate will be shaped significantly by whomever wins the White House.
Because of the Supreme Court’s conservative shift under Trump, states are moving quickly on abortion rights. Conservative states are purposefully passing laws aimed at challenging Roe v. Wade while progressive states are passing protections so abortion remains legal even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Every Democratic nominee has said that they support women’s right to choose.
Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg have said they will leave the decision of whether to have an abortion completely up to the woman making the choice, with no government limits.
Warren has the most detailed platform on women’s health, saying she would push Congress to prevent states from passing laws that restrict access.
Klobuchar supports women’s right to choose but with certain limits later in pregnancy; she has said she would limit abortion in the third trimester, unless the health of the woman was at risk.
Throughout his career, Biden has taken every stance on abortion. In the 1980s, he supported overturning Roe v. Wade, and in 2003, he voted to ban a certain late-term abortion procedure. Though he now supports women’s right to choose, he has never disavowed casting those votes.
Steyer and Bloomberg have not made their position on this topic clear.
Education: Most candidates in the race have rallied behind some form of tuition-free or debt-free college, but they disagree on what portion of tuition should be covered.
Sanders made free college a cornerstone of his campaign in 2016, which introduced the issue as a hot topic in progressive politics. His proposal would wipe out tuition for all public colleges and universities. States would cover 33% of the cost, and the federal government would cover the rest.
Warren’s wealth tax would cover the cost of four years of tuition for all to attend public colleges and universities.
Biden and Klobuchar support two years of free community college, arguing that public schooling should extend through grade 14.
Steyer has said students shouldn’t have to take on debt but hasn’t shared specifics about how he would make that happen.
Every candidate in the race has said they would boost teacher pay. Sanders said he would set a minimum starting salary at $60,000. Warren’s plan would quadruple Title I funding and increase pay for teachers and other support professionals. Klobuchar would create a program to provide a federal match to increase teacher salaries.
The Economy: Every candidate in the race endorses raising the minimum wage from $7.25, where it’s been since 2009, to $15.
The U.S. economy is doing well, but a growing share of the benefits are going to the already wealthy. The wealth inequality is a major concern for voters, who are widely supportive of raising taxes for the rich.
Warren has taken the strongest stance for a wealth tax, proposing an “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” on the 75,000 richest families in the U.S. to pay for universal childcare and student loan debt relief.
Following suit, Sanders has called for an extreme wealth tax on the highest-income Americans. He wants to raise taxes on businesses whose CEOs make at least 50 times more than their median workers.
Steyer has called for boosting the rural economy through development programs and partnerships and hasn’t endorsed a wealth tax.
Bloomberg would increase public investment, especially in areas that have seen economic decline. He would increase spending on research and development. He also supports the expansion of high speed internet to rural areas.
Klobuchar hasn’t released specific plans targeting income inequality.
Affordable Housing: The rising cost of housing has led to more than a third of Americans spending more than the recommended 30% of their income on mortgage or rent. Rent in cities is skyrocketing, and rampant student debt is blocking young people from buying homes.
Warren introduced legislation to invest in two housing funds that would help states to build and preserve affordable housing. The bill would also dedicate funds for Native American housing.
Steyer has a plan to build or restore more than 2 million new units for low-income people. Similarly, Bloomberg would expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and create a competitive grant program to tackle local zoning laws.
Sanders’ “Housing for All” plan would use federal funds to build 10 million homes and impose national rent control.
Climate change: The United Nations says a net-zero emissions needs to be achieved worldwide by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic effects of sea-level rise and extreme weather.
Achieving net-zero emissions would require drastically reducing the use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal.
Biden and Steyer have said they would tax carbon emissions, but environmental activists say that a carbon tax would be insufficient to secure the necessary reductions.
Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar all support the Green New Deal. The congressional resolution, introduced to Congress by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Edward J. Markey, calls on the federal government to wean the U.S. from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Deal has little Republican support, with Mitch McConnell calling it a “socialist takeover.” Trump claimed the Deal would “take away your airplane rights.”
Senator Tom Cotton said that the proposal would force Americans to “ride around on high-speed light rail, supposedly powered by unicorn tears.” Senator John Barrasso, the chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, said that we would no longer have ice cream or milkshakes because “livestock will be banned.”
While the Green New Deal would aim to reduce methane, the powerful greenhouse gas emitted by cows and and other livestock, but the rest of those claims are false.
Oil, gas and coal contribute 75% of the energy consumed in the U.S. The advent of fracking and advances in drilling have driven oil and gas production to record levels.
Fossil fuels from lands under the federal government’s control accounted for 25% of our carbon dioxide emissions in the last decade.
Biden, Steyer and Klobuchar have said they will end new oil and gas leases on federal land and end offshore drilling.
Sanders and Warren have said they will ban fracking nationwide — including on existing federal leases and private lands — but this would require legislation from Congress, which is unlikely unless Democrats are able to take the Senate.
Gun control: The politics surrounding gun control have played a role in presidential elections for decades, but Democrats are poised to make their greatest gains yet, should they take the White House this year. Democrats are nationally united against gun lobbies such as the National Rifle Association and remain motivated toward change since last year’s tragedy in Parkland, Florida, which led to millions of youth to march on Washington to protest gun violence.
Every candidate in the field supports universal background checks. When it comes to assault rifles, especially AR-15 style semi-automatic rifles that are most often used in mass shootings, candidates vary on hardline bans.
Every candidate support a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Additionally, Klobuchar supports banning bump stocks and high capacity ammunition feeding devices. Klobuchar, Warren and Sanders were co-sponsors on a Senate bill to ban assault weapons.
Biden, Steyer, Sanders, Steyer and Warren support a voluntary national buyback program. They would not confiscate previously-owned firearms.
The candidates with the strongest stances against assault weapons have since dropped out of the race. Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke supported a mandatory buyback program. O’Rourke said that these firearms “should remain on the battlefield where they belong.”
Immigration: Trump made the effort to reduce illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign in 2016, with “Build that wall!” becoming a signature chant at his rallies. Since becoming president, he has replaced family-based legal immigration with a system based on individual merit, banned travelers from specific countries, separated thousands of children from their parents and waged war against the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
To date, there are still more than 100 children who have never been reunited with their families.
Families are being separated due to Section 1325 of federal law, which criminalizes crossing the border and makes it legal to incarcerate the parents. Steyer, Biden, Steyer and Warren would decriminalize this act.
Biden would keep Section 1325 in place, but would repeal criminal penalties for people crossing the border in pursuit of asylum.
In 2017, Trump moved to phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offered deportation relief to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Every Democratic candidate supports a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, also called Dreamers.
There are far more issues to discuss than those listed, including criminal justice reform, cybersecurity, marijuana legalization, the military, trade, taxes and more. Information on each candidate’s stances can be found here.