In March 2018, I had the privilege to interview Jason Perry for “10 questions.”
Perry is the Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah and has a long and distinguished record of political service.
Kurt Manwaring: What factors went into choosing your law school and what influence has the S.Q. Quinney College of Law had on your approach to politics?
Jason Perry: There were several key reason why I chose the S.J. Quinney College of Law.
First, I wanted to attend a highly respected law school with a reputation for producing exceptional lawyers.
Second, I wanted to stay in Utah.
I had a great experience in law school. I learned to think about complex problems in a new way and I came to realize how important it is for lawyers to understand the political process.
Lawyers are great at arguing what a laws say, but there is power in knowing how laws are made and how to influence them.
Kurt Manwaring: What were your primary duties as Chief of Staff for Governor Gary Herbert?
Jason Perry: As the Chief of Staff, I was responsible for the daily responsibilities of the governor’s office and I had primary oversight over all state agencies. These responsibilities included helping to set strategy and policy as well as working with the legislature.
Kurt Manwaring: What is the Hinckley Institute and how can it inform voter decision-making?
Jason Perry: The Hinckley Institute provides transformative experiences for students and the community through internships and our public forums.
We bring local, national, and global leaders to the University of Utah to speak about a wide array of topics. These forums help students get excited about civic engagement and give voters the tools to make informed decisions.
Kurt Manwaring: What is one issue or concern you have come across that does not get the news coverage you think it should?
Jason Perry: The amazing amount of life changing research that routinely comes out of institutions of higher education.
Kurt Manwaring: Evan McMullin made quite a splash in the 2016 presidential campaign as an independent. Does the significant support he received signal an opportunity for the United Utah Party? Why or why not?
Jason Perry: In 2016, Utahns showed they were willing to vote for Evan McMullin. However, this can be seen more as a reaction to the historic levels of distrust and dislike Utahns had for Trump and Clinton.
In 2017, the United Utah candidate received about 9% of the vote in Utah’s Third District. This is higher than most third-party candidates receive in Utah.
Kurt Manwaring: It feels as if there are two different groups within the Utah Republican Party leaning in somewhat opposite directions. What challenges does the party face in trying to simultaneously appeal to extremists and moderates?
Jason Perry: Parties and candidates always face the challenge of trying to appeal to as many voters as possible. As polarization has increased in recent years, this has become more challenging for candidates and for voters as well, as they try to find someone who represents their views.
Kurt Manwaring: What is the biggest obstacle the Utah Democratic Party faces in securing millennial voters turned off by Republican extremism?
Jason Perry: Both Republicans and Democrats are dealing with generation gaps within their parties. It is difficult to find middle ground on the priorities of younger and older party members.
It is encouraging to see how energized about politics Millennials are becoming, and it will be interesting to see which party can capture this excitement.
Kurt Manwaring: There are rumors that Romney would be given a leadership role if elected. If this were to occur, what would it mean for Utahns? How rare would this kind of situation be in U.S. history?
Jason Perry: Orrin Hatch is probably the most powerful elected official Utah has ever had and his role and influence in DC has helped Utah punch above its weight class.
However, Mitt Romney is already well-known and well-respected and he has been acting as the de facto Republican elder statesman, campaigning for candidates throughout the country and speaking out on important issues.
His experience in state and national politics will make him a formidable candidate and an influential freshman senator, especially with rumors that he may be selected as the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Kurt Manwaring: Mormons make up a significant percentage of voters in Utah. What are one or two issues you feel are important to Mormons right now?
Jason Perry: Like many other faiths, Mormons have shown they favor common-sense and compassionate laws regarding immigration and refugees.
Kurt Manwaring: Politics in America is more vitriolic and partisan than it has been in generations. Could you offer a few thoughts on the role of civility in political campaigns and communications?
Jason Perry: Political discourse is a two-way street; both sides need to listen to each and speak with respect.