Tanner Ainge says he skipped the traditional delegate/convention route to get on the Republican primary ballot for one simple reason. Gathering signatures to secure a place in the primary gave him a chance at political survival.
"There was not a lot of time to figure all of this out with the way that Congressman Chaffetz decided to step down. In fact, Spencer Cox announced the rules of the special election on a Friday, and the very next day was the State Organizing Convention," said Ainge. "I went there, thinking I was going to get into the race. And, I noticed that Deidre Henderson had a full booth. The delegates were walking around carrying her maroon bags, and Brad Daw and Margaret Dayton had their full campaigns in motion. These are people who have been courting these delegates for decades."
Ainge was a guest on the "Beg to Differ podcast" with Bryan Schott and guest host State Auditor John Dougall.
"I didn't see any path to advance, and in a couple of weeks, my campaign would be over," said Ainge. "I realized if I got on the ballot, I would extend my campaign and opportunity all the way through August 15th. Then I would have the opportunity to get my message out there."
Ainge is one of three Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in the special election for Utah's 3rd Congressional District. The other two are Provo Mayor John Curtis and former Utah Rep. Chris Herrod. Both Herrod and Curtis participated in the special GOP 3rd District nominating convention where Herrod prevailed. Curtis only got about 9% of the delegate vote, but he also gathered signatures to secure a place on the ballot.
Ballots will be mailed to voters in just two weeks, giving Ainge very little time to make his pitch. How is he trying to woo those Republicans in the 3rd District? He's hoping to position himself as a fiscal conservative, drawing on his experience in the business world to help curb what he describes as Washington's spending problem.
"In the business world, you don't have the luxury of printing money or continually racking up debt. If you run deficits, you get shut down, or you go bankrupt. Washington, D.C. somehow has continued this dysfunction. I can't sit on the sidelines and watch that happen and know there's going to be this looming crisis further down the road. When you have a spending problem, you know that one day there's going to be a day of reckoning. I want to get in and start making the cuts and the changes we need to make now so that my generation doesn't continue to inherit a bigger and bigger mess."
Ainge wants to push for entitlement reform, specifically Social Security and Medicare. While that has long been an untouchable third rail in American politics, but Ainge says it's time to start looking at reforms like means testing.
"Some of the people who have no need for that kind of income in retirement, you start means testing it. There are ways to do that in the Medicare program as well. There are other solutions, like allowing people to save more for retirement. I would support anything on a bipartisan level that would extend the solvency of that program."
Ainge also would like to see a balanced budget amendment, but acknowledges there are political hurdles to passing that in Congress. However, he is optimistic that Congress will tackle tax reform this year.
"We have the highest corporate tax rate in any developed nation, and that needs to come down," he says. "I think that we can also close some of the loopholes as we reduce the rate. On the individual tax front, we should reduce the number of tax brackets from 7 to just two or three. We need to simplify the tax code across the board. It's a 70,000-page tax code that hasn't been revised in over 30 years."