This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said Thursday that both he and his running mate, Donald Trump, support school vouchers, giving parents the ability to send their children to private institutions and parochial schools.
"Donald Trump and I both believe that every parent in America should be able to choose where their children go to school, regardless of their income and regardless of their area code, and public, private and parochial and faith-based schools on the list," Pence told the audience at Sen. Mike Lee's Utah Solutions Summit.
The Indiana governor touted his state's voucher program, saying it has enabled 33,000 children in Indiana to attend the school of their choice. In one of their first conversations, Pence said, they agreed on school choice and that Trump "is passionate about school choice."
Pence said he is happy to see Congress dismantling the No Child Left Behind Act, which he opposed when it was championed by President George W. Bush.
"Donald Trump and I both believe that education is a state and local function that should be controlled by parents and teachers and administrators in our local communities and states," Pence said.
Utahns have overwhelmingly rejected vouchers in the past, with nearly two-thirds voting to repeal a voucher law passed by the Utah Legislature in 2007. There has been no serious effort to enact vouchers in the state since.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he wasn't surprised to hear Pence advocating for school vouchers, but he believes "the people of Utah have spoken on the issue, it's not timely now."
Pence was in Utah on Thursday to speak on education issues at Lee's summit which was held in the same building, Vivint Smart Homes Arena, where Star Wars star Mark Hamill was speaking upstairs to thousands of fans at Comic Con. Outside the arena, convention-goers dressed in all sorts of costumes milled about and were asked not to bring their prop weapons into the venue.
Pence left the summit quickly to attend a private, $10,000-a-person lunch fundraiser at the Bountiful home of real-estate investor Scott Keller. The event was expected to raise as much as $200,000.
Later, he toured The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Temple Square with Herbert and Sen. Orrin Hatch as his guides. Arranging the event took some finessing, since the LDS Church typically steers clear of political events. Hatch orchestrated the tour and there was no official church presence.
Hatch and Herbert walked Pence through the grounds and visitor center, as Pence introduced himself to some curious onlookers. They visited the tabernacle and heard the massive organ being played inside.
Afterward, Pence defended Trump's position on immigration, which the candidate reiterated in a speech in Arizona on Wednesday, calling for a border wall that Mexico would pay for and creation of a "deportation task force" focusing on removing criminal immigrants.
"As Ronald Reagan said, a nation without borders is not a nation, and Donald Trump, last night and throughout this campaign, has made it clear he's going to establish the kind of leadership that will not only build a wall, but will establish and defend the borders of this country," Pence said.
Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon said Pence's visit is a telling sign about the state of the race, and a strategic calculation by the Republicans.
"I think people are trying to sugarcoat Donald Trump with Mike Pence and, at the end of the day, a vote for Pence is a vote for Trump," Corroon said. "I think the Republicans are running scared. When Utah is in play, you know the national Republican Party has a problem, and Donald Trump is that problem."
Herbert, along with Lee, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Rep. Mia Love, declined to sign a letter by Utah's elected officials endorsing Trump and his policies. Asked about why he declined to join in the statement, Herbert said "I'm here. I'm supporting Mike Pence."
"It's clear where my loyalties are and that's with Mike Pence and I think he's going to be a great vice president," Herbert said, saying he didn't sign the letter because, "There's not a lot of time to do everything. I'm here supporting Mike Pence. You've seen me here. I'm going to vote for Donald Trump and that's enough said."
Lee told reporters Thursday morning that he is still not prepared to endorse the Trump-Pence ticket, despite the governor's visit.
Lee said he's had several talks about Trump with Pence and wants to learn more about Trump's position on balancing power between the federal government and the states. Lee said he wouldn't vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but, without naming names, is open to supporting a third-party candidate.
Independent candidate Evan McMullin, a Utah native, spoke Thursday at the University of Utah, where he called Trump "a bonafide threat to our democracy."
Pence said he has "boundless" respect for Lee and Hatch, and he believes that Utahns generally will warm to Trump in time.
"He shares the ideals and values of the vast majority of the people of Utah, whether it be his commitment to a strong national defense, rebuilding the military, lowering taxes and rolling back regulations, repealing Obamacare, an economic agenda that is based on moral and economic freedom, not higher taxes and more regulation," Pence said. "And lastly, Donald Trump is committed to making appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States that represent the kind of jurisprudence that the late Antonin Scalia loved."
Hatch said he called Trump about three-and-a-half weeks ago and encouraged him to stick to the issues during his campaign stops and tone down his brash rhetoric. Since then, Hatch said, Trump has stayed on message and closed the gap with Clinton.
On immigration, Hatch said Trump is still refining his message.
"He's being beaten up because he's coming around on immigration to trying to have a reasonable, worthwhile approach to it. I suspect that still has to have some work being done," Hatch said hours after Trump's tough-talking immigration speech in Arizona. "But you know, he's a man who speaks his mind, he's plenty smart, he's nice, he knows how to make things work and he's been successful in business."
During his remarks, Pence also slapped at Clinton's economic policies, saying as president she would add a trillion dollars in taxes and a trillion dollars in spending, impose new regulations, expand Obamacare and continue to wage "war on energy."
Pence left Utah on Thursday afternoon and planned to make a quick stop in Boise before heading home to Indianapolis.
Pence came to Utah looking to beef up the Trump campaign's poor fundraising numbers in Utah and solidify the campaign's standing in the polls. Trump had raised just over $187,000 in Utah through the end of July, a little more than a quarter of what has been raised by Clinton in the state and less than any recent presidential candidate.
Trump has also struggled to gain traction in the overwhelmingly Republican state. While recent polls have showed him with a double-digit lead, it is a smaller gap than any recent Republican nominee has enjoyed and Trump himself recently acknowledged that he has a "tremendous problem" in Utah.
Later this month, Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., is scheduled to come to Utah for another round of fundraising and likely a public rally.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.