Open Mike Tour

Open Mike Tour



The final stretch of the Open Mike Tour included a sweep through Southeastern Utah, home of the Delicate Arch and stunning red rock cliffs. This was my first time in this part of the state, and I’m already working on figuring out how I can make it back to enjoy the beauty and recreation this area has to offer. 

On our final stop of the tour, a Blanding resident posed a question that allowed Mike to share how he plans to represent Utah. The gentleman asked: “It seems like Congress is all about wheeling and dealing—about giving and taking favors. How is that going to play a part in how you serve Utah?”

Mike stands firm in his resolve that as a U.S. Senator, he will not be working for the people in DC, but for the people of Utah. He will be a voice for Utah and see to it that the needs from each corner of Utah are recognized and given the proper attention. 

A big part of the “wheeling and dealing” in Washington that our Blanding friend referred to comes when members of Congress are bought off by earmarks. “The current earmark process is riddled with manipulation and corruption that we simply can’t continue to allow,” said Mike. “Members of Congress get to play Santa Clause by taking all the credit for earmark funding they bring to their states. When they accept these funds, they agree to fund other earmarks for other members of Congress so they too can get credit of their own back at home. This bartering process has resulted in the passage of Obamacare, TARP and other unpopular pieces of legislation that are expanding the reach of the federal government and adding to our ever-increasing national debt.”

Mike has vowed a one-year moratorium on all earmarks to allow for time to reform the process in which funds are appropriated. He proposes that each request is put on the table for 72 hours to allow members of Congress to review. If any one member should object, the proposal should be taken to the floor and voted on as if it is a free-standing bill. This will allow for transparency in the process and reduce the amount of corruption that has accompanied the distribution of such funds for so long.

This is yet another example of how Mike plans to reshape thinking in Washington to help restore America to greatness. By taking a stand on such issues, Mike is proving that his intent as a U.S. Senator is to best serve not only Utahns, but all Americans by strengthening the integrity and operation of our federal government. 

Our stop in Blanding marked the end of the Open Mike Tour for the campaign season, but not the end to Mike’s visits over the months and years to come. Mike will continue to have an open ear to all of his constituents as he serves as a Senator from Utah, and will frequent these areas to ensure that each county, basin, hill and valley has a voice in Washington.  

A huge thanks to all of our dedicated volunteers who helped coordinate our visits, and to those supporters who took the time to meet Mike and share your questions. We will continue with our campaign efforts until the polls close, and look forward to sharing a victory with all of Utah on November 2!

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary 


Our Southern Utah stops were definitely worthwhile. Not only because we missed the chilly snowstorm in Utah County, but because we met so many great supporters, many of whom have dedicated countless hours to Mike and the campaign.

One such supporter is Ellen Schunk, our County Coordinator for the area who has done a tremendous job of educating her neighbors and generating widespread support for Mike in his candidacy. In a chat with Ellen I learned that St. George has been hit hard by the economic depression facing our country, so  much so that it’s sometimes referred to as the “Ground Zero” of Utah. A spike in home foreclosures has depressed the local economy and has left residents wondering what the future will hold for them.

The warm weather and relaxed feel of St. George has made it a hot spot for retirees.  Mike spoke with several residents regarding their concerns for Social Security. They realize that the current system is not sustainable and needs reform, so Mike shared his ideas on what needs to be done to make for a better system. 

We have three entitlement programs on the books—Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—that when taken together will consume more than $100 trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities over the course of the next few decades, which is in excess of what our current income tax system can handle.  There’s no question we need to make some adjustments, and here is how Mike proposes to reform  Social Security to ease this burden:

“The first thing we have to do with Social Security is promise that those people who are already retired and are current beneficiaries of Social Security will not have any change made to their benefits. At the same time, we need to start acknowledging the fact that we will have to make some adjustments. We need to start telling those who have not retired yet who will do so in 10 or more years down the road, that we need to raise the retirement age gradually, reindex  the escalation of benefits based on inflation rather than cost of living and start imposing means-based standards for eligibility moving forward. In the long run, we need to look at a privatization option, and options that include some kind of defined contribution. We’ll never be able to balance our budget and stabilize our economy until we reform these entitlement problems.”

Raising the retirement age is an essential part in the reform process, because Americans are living longer now than they were in the 1930’s when the program was created. It’s wonderful to see that people are living longer, but the system needs to be modified to reflect that change. Those who have years away from retiring can begin to make adjustments in their preparations for that time in their life, and begin to invest in their own retirement plans to best plan for the future. 

Thanks again to Ellen Schunk and our other Washington County volunteers for making this trip such a success. We enjoyed visiting with the people in this area, and Mike will surely return soon. 

Just one more round of stops to go! Hope to see you in Southeastern Utah!

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary


Today’s leg of the Open Mike Tour lead us through parts of Central and Southern Utah. Mike had a full day of traveling, meeting and greeting in Fillmore, Beaver, Panguitch and Cedar City.

On the Panguitch stop I had the privilege of meeting Jaelyn Gillett, an 18-year-old high school senior who is looking forward to casting a ballot for the very first time on November 2. What impressed me about Jaelyn was her knowledge of and passion for all things politics. She has participated in the Teen Republican club since the 7th grade and is currently serving as the club’s president not only in Garfield County, but for the state of Utah. “I think we really need to focus on the Constitution and get back to limited government,” said Jaelyn. “The federal government has gotten so big and is making decisions that should be left up to the states to make.”

Jaelyn and a group of her fellow club members attended the event to meet Mike and share their concerns regarding the economy and the rapidly increasing federal deficit. Mike is in agreement that this is a major issue, and one that needs to be addressed not only to relieve the burden felt by Americans today, but for future generations to come. 

“Our country is accumulating debt at a rate of between one and one point five trillion dollars per year, which within a year’s time will have amounted to almost $15 trillion,” said Mike. “When you divide that between 300 million Americans, that works out to about $50,000 a head. We have mortgaged the future of our children in a form of taxation without representation. We have people alive today who have a debt that’s been accumulated in their name and they haven’t even had an opportunity to vote for those accumulating that debt. We have people who are not yet born, who will one day have to pay off that debt. That’s not fair, that’s not the American way, and we can do better.”

Mike reaffirmed that it’s only by returning to the limited government principles set forth by the founders of this county that we will be able to return America to greatness and stabilize the struggling economy. 

Seeing interest and participation from the young students who came to meet Mike is very inspiring and proves that the younger generation—particularly in Panguitch—realizes that the decisions made today will affect them in the years to come. Before they’re even old enough to vote, these students are taking the time to get informed and let their voices be heard to ensure that they are doing their part to create a better America.  

Just a few more stops left on the Open Mike Tour before Election Day! Come back to find out what we learn from our Hurricane, Washington City and St. George neighbors.


After a weekend in Utah County, the Open Mike Tour resumed in full force and headed south on the cold, wet freeway. As the day went on the weather cleared up and we made our way through Nephi, Delta, Ephraim, Salina and Richfield. It was a busy day, and definitely worth the trip.

I had a chance to talk to Denise Purcell during our stop in Delta, and she shared that illegal immigration is a great concern for people in the Delta area. “We want people to have a chance to move here and contribute to the community, but we just need them to come here legally,” said Purcell. “I’ve seen friends of mine go through the immigration process—which is costly and takes a lot of time. We need to see this process made simpler so more people have the opportunity to come here the right way.”

Mike has been consistent in his message regarding how illegal immigration situation should be addressed. “We live in a county of immigrants, and I hope it always stays that way,” said Mike. “We simply can’t afford to go on without proper documentation of who is living, working and enjoying the benefits of our country, and it’s up to the federal government to see that action is taken.”

Mike is in agreement that the process needs to be refined so that those who are trying to enter the right way should be able to do so through a simpler process to encourage immigrants to come in the front door. He plans on working to see that Congress begin by securing the southern border and to ensure that employers are held accountable for hiring people residing in the U.S. illegally. 

“The bottom line is, the federal government has dropped the ball when it comes to its responsibility for making and enforcing laws governing immigration,” said Mike. “Our country needs a system that is consistent, orderly, and adheres to the laws already set in place.”

Illegal immigration has become a topic of concern for Americans throughout the country, and Mike is prepared to work with members of the Senate to make this issue a priority and see that action is taken.

We had great turnouts at each of the stops today and enjoyed meeting so many supporters. It’s wonderful to see so many people making it a point to educate themselves before casting their ballot, and we’re glad they took time out of their busy schedules to come by and say hello to Mike.

A huge thanks to our County Coordinators and volunteers for helping out with all of today’s events! Our campaign has thrived because of the selfless work done by these dedicated individuals, and we hope they know that their efforts have not gone unnoticed. 

Tomorrow is another busy day loaded with stops around southern Utah, beginning with a visit to Fillmore! Please come by and say hello to Mike.

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary


The Open Mike Tour made its way to Midway on Wednesday where Mike had the opportunity to speak at the building dedication of the Soldier Hollow Charter School. The school has been in commission since 1999, and a recent spurt in growth called for additional classroom space to accommodate for the increase in numbers.  

Chris Willis, the Soldier Hollow School Board President, expressed the need to improve our education system, which can be done through making decisions closer to the classroom as opposed to in Washington. "Our Midway and Heber communities sit in a beautiful, country setting but the reality is that our children are going to be competing on a global level for the rest of their lives,” said Willis. “America's strength comes from the smarts and energetic inventiveness of its citizens. We appreciate that Mike Lee took the time show his support of Soldier Hollow Charter School and our efforts to improve the education for America's next generation."

Cheryl Knudsen is a Midway resident who expressed the concerns regarding the economy that she and her neighbors share this election season: “In the community I live in there are many who are at or near retirement age. We are concerned that our property values have fallen and yet property taxes have increased. 401K accounts are far less than 3 years ago and health care costs are going up. Will we be able to retire or have to keep working longer to recoup our losses? Also, government spending is out of control. We need to stop bailing out huge corporations and lower taxes to create jobs and increase consumer spending.”

Mike is in agreement that federal spending is out of control. One of his priorities as a Senator will be to enact a balanced budget amendment to ensure that Congress cannot spend any more than it takes in, in a given year. “It’s time for our federal government to reign in their spending and allow Americans to build and create wealth, invest as they choose, and save for the future,” said Mike. “It is only by returning to the principles of a limited government that America can get back on its feet and return to greatness.”

It’s been a busy week, but believe it or not, we’re just getting started! We’re stopping in Nephi, Delta, Ephraim, Salina and Richfield on Monday, so please come by and say hello! Check out times and locations for each of the Open Mike Tour stop here: 

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary


The Open Mike Tour made its way back up north for 3 more stops. Mike met up with a great group of Layton residents at the Layton Common Park. I had a chance to speak with Jeff, Hazel and Sam Rushton, who as a family have been volunteering for Mike by hitting the phones and putting up signs. Sam is in her first year at Weber State and looking forward to the opportunity to vote for the first time this year. Her parents said they have always voted in previous elections before but, after hearing Mike speak at a 9/12 meeting in Kaysville last year, decided it was time to help him become Utah’s next senator. The Layton streets seemed pretty well-covered with our blue and white signs, so they’re efforts are definitely making a mark.

After taking questions from the Layton residents we headed up to Steph’s Drive In for some ice cream with Morgan residents. A few of the attendees made it known to Mike that they were undecided as to who they should cast their vote for this year, and wanted to hear answers to their questions first-hand. It’s great to see people taking such an active role in the political process for this election by taking the time to educate themselves about the issues and candidates.

I asked Wilma Hatch, one of the undecided attendees, what she looks for in a candidate to represent Utah. She replied, “I’m looking for someone who will stand for principles, conservative views and work for the people. Not someone who will fall into status quo and stop listening to their constituents.”

Mike wrapped up the evening with a meet and greet at Discovery Elementary in Brigham City. Our County Coordinator Kim Weis did a great job inviting friends and neighbors to come meet Mike to discuss the issues. A question that came up in Brigham City that has been raised at every stop is regarding Mike’s position on healthcare. 

Essentially, Mike is opposed to health care reform that gives government the authority to force Americans to buy health insurance, redistribute wealth to satisfy government mandates, or overburden small businesses which would contribute to job losses. This is exactly what Obamacare is designed to do. Mike said, “It is essential that we work to defund and repeal Obamacare, and apply every possible means within Congress to stop full implementation of this legislation. The real solution to our current health care challenge is found in less government involvement in the process--not more.”

Thanks to the many residents who came out to meet Mike on this leg of the tour. We’re looking forward to meeting even more Utahns on our next stop in Midway. 

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary


The Open Mike Tour hit Logan on Monday where Mike had a chance to meet with the city’s mayor, students at Utah State University and other local residents. 

Mike met up with Mayor Randy Watts who took us down to the Logan Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Utah State University engineering department showed us some interesting projects they’re working on under the direction of Dr. Ronald Sims. A group of Master’s students are conducting a number of projects dealing with different ways to collect algae, which can then be chemically converted to biodiesel. These are some talented individuals and I think we can expect to see great things from them.

I had a chance to speak with Logan Christenson, a graduate student in the engineering department at USU, who plans to graduate in 2011. I asked him what he saw as being a major issue for the residents in Logan, and here’s what he had to say: “Speaking for the student residents of Logan, the economy is the major issue this year. We don't want to graduate into an economy that has no room for us.”

The concern surrounding the economy is one that’s affecting not only the students in Logan, but residents throughout Utah and the entire country.  According to the Department of Labor, the current national unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, meaning more than 14 million of our friends, family members and neighbors are unemployed today. 

Mike says Congress needs to reign in federal spending and take a limited government approach to get America back on track: “Reckless decisions made by Congress have put us close to $15 trillion in debt, inhibited and even paralyzed businesses from expanding, investing and hiring.  We must reduce unnecessary regulation and provide certainty for businesses and individuals. I plan to help relieve the burden facing Utahns who are feeling the stress of the economic downturn by calling for a balanced budget amendment to get federal spending under control. Shrinking the size and cost of government and returning more money to the people will naturally stimulate the economy, encourage investment, and grow jobs.”

What our country needs right now is a Congress that is lead by fiscally responsible conservatives who can steer us back on the road to economic stability and prosperity. Mike is prepared to do his part change the current mindset in Washington in order to ease the burden felt by Americans hit by these hard economic times.

Thanks to all the Logan residents who came out to meet Mike. He is looking forward to working with the city of Logan for years to come.

Next stop: Layton! 

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary


The drive to Daggett County was beautiful. If you’ve never been to the area, it’s definitely worth a visit. The route from Vernal took us on the Uintas Scenic Byway, which provided an impressive view of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.  It’s known for its great camping, boating, fishing, and as I experienced first-hand, it’s spectacular beauty. 

Our first stop in Daggett County was a meeting with the County Commissioners in Manila where they shared some alarming information. Believe it or not, the residents of Daggett County have control over only 8 percent of their land. That’s right—8 percent. That means that 92 percent of this county’s land cannot be taxed or otherwise regulated by the State. Therefore, the economy—as well as the area’s public education system—suffers as a result. 

In addition, Flaming Gorge provides the area with an excellent tourist attraction which could be utilized for significant revenue and job creation, yet the federal government is prohibiting that from taking place. It has put limits on permits and development, which is stifling the county’s ability to expand upon tourism opportunities. 

We spent the rest of the day in Roosevelt and Duchesne speaking with local businesses and residents.

We learned that overall, residents in this area want to rid the control the federal government has over their land, and to have decisions regarding what their land is used for made here at home. Mike told the County Commissioners and the other residents he spoke with that as their Senator, he will do what it takes to get these lands back in the hands of Utahns. Washington is too far removed from the situation to do what’s best for Daggett County and Duchesne County, and it’s time to reclaim this land to enable the residents to jump-start the economy through developing and promoting the area.

County Coordinator Vallyn Wilden is dedicating her time to Mike’s candidacy this year because she has confidence in his ability to turn things around for the area. “I truly believe that one reason, the biggest reason, why Mike's message is resonating so well with local residents is because when he says that he will work to help us gain control of our lands and resources we know that he truly means it because of the work that he has already done for us, said Wilden.” She has done an amazing job of spreading Mike’s message and gaining support for him in this area, and she is a truly valued part of the team. 

Again, thanks to Vallyn Wilden, Joni Crane, Bill Johnson and Leroy Pectol for the time and effort you put in to make this a successful trip. The time in this area was definitely well-spent, and Mike will take what he learned back to Washington to set things right. 

Mike’s next stop will be Logan! Check back to see what Mike learns from residents there. 

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary

Notes from the road: Vernal

The Open Mike Tour started out with a stop in Vernal. From sun up to sun down Mike spoke with residents to get a feel for their concerns this election season, and to answer their questions regarding where he stands on the issues. 

Every group we met with—from Deseret Power Plant employees to the Vernal Rotary Club to the Chamber of Commerce to attendees of the Uintah Basin Oil and Gas Collaborative Group meeting--shared the same concern for the area. The very ground we walked on is rich with resources, yet the White House has implemented strict federal policies prohibiting the area’s ability to tap into this fruitful resource. Without the ability to drill, the Vernal economy has suffered, residents have left and development has dried up. 

The Obama administration and Congressional democrats have put a chokehold on 67 percent of Utah’s land, denying the state—and Vernal in particular—access to some of the most energy-rich soil in the world. Such restriction has a negative impact on the residents of Vernal, and a rippling effect on the nation as a whole as it prohibits domestic energy production and kills potential jobs that accompany such business.  Vernal residents are the unfortunate beneficiaries of over-regulation, and Mike assured them that as their next senator, he will work to restore the debate of the proper roles of government and to get the control of the lands back to the people—right where it belongs.

Joni Crane, a County Coordinator for the Morgan Philpot campaign, is a Vernal resident and had this to say about Mike: 

“If Mike Lee heads into the 7-11 Ranch Restaurant in Vernal, everyone knows him on a first name basis, not because he has campaigned here, but because he was a frequent visitor long before the election. Mike has been an advocate for the Uintah Basin for years, helping us protect access to public lands for oil and gas extraction that benefit our local economy, and proactively advocating local control of these lands through local management plans. His firm application and understanding of the Constitution will benefit our citizenry as he fights the wave of regulatory control being unleashed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and other federal agencies. He has my support 100%!”

A huge thanks to our outstanding volunteers who helped make this trip happen. Our County Coordinator Vallyn Wilden along with Joni Crane did an outstanding job of putting together some great opportunities for me to meet Vernal residents, and helped Mike get the very most out of the visit. A special thanks to Bill Johnson, Danielle Hutchinson and Leroy Pectol for their help as well. 

Our stop in Vernal was just the beginning! Stay tuned for our trip to Daggett County! 

Emily Bennion, Press Secretary