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Seven gubernatorial candidates told Utahns at the Congregation Kol Ami Synagogue where they stand on issues ranging from health care to abortion Tuesday night.

The candidates are Stewart Hansen, Democrat; Merrill Cook, Independent; Dixie Minson, Republican; Mike Leavitt, Republican; Pat Shea, Democrat; Mike Stewart, Republican; Richard Eyre, Republican.The candidates were questioned on health care, education and political pluralism. Moderator Deborah Lindner, state government reporter for KSL TV, asked the candidates how they would improve access to health care for all Utahns.

"We need to be willing to look at options that will provide at least a basic level of health care for all Utahns," Hansen said. Cook said education and accessible health care are the two most pressing issues facing Utah.

"I lean very strongly towards pay-or-play health insurance," Cook said. The current system is employer-based now, and that leaves about 250,000 Utahns uninsured, he said. "Pay or play" is a concept in which employers must either have insurance plans or pay the government a certain amount, which the government uses to insure the uninsured.

Minson emphasized that the state needs to solve health-care problems and that a national health-care plan isn't the answer. LaVarr Webb, representing an absent Leavitt, said Leavitt also favors a state solution because Utah has a lower unemployment rate than the nation. A national solution may mean Utah pays more than its share, Webb said.

A uniform insurance form and good public health education are steps toward solving some of the health-care problems, Shea said, citing the "Baby Your Baby" program initiated by his employer, KUTV.

Stewart said the issue was so complex that we probably wouldn't see an answer for about four years. He suggested a charitable health-care plan and caps on malpractice suits.

Richard Snelgrove, who represented Eyre for the first half of the debate, said Eyre was inclined to support the pay-or-play option, too.

They were also asked how members of the Jewish community could be heard in a predominantly Mormon Legislature. Most advised them to get involved and be willing to work in government positions. Minson told them to elect people who understand and appreciate diversity.

Regarding education, all candidates said they would consider a tax increase to reduce class sizes after looking at all options.

Shea and Cook said they believe there is enough money in education to fund the necessary reforms but it needs to be better managed. Minson said she'd work to get the maximum amount of money from Utah's trust lands.

Hansen said he'd favor programs such as site-based management. Webb noted that Leavitt was recently endorsed by UEA and he would work for an infusion of technology in Utah's schools. Stewart said he'd like to see every Utah sophomore plan to go to college or technical school. Better planning and better managing would make better use of money Utah already has, he said.

"I think we've gotten way overboard thinking class sizes would solve all our problems," Eyre said. Making education more competitive would improve the quality, he said.

Shea, Cook and Hansen said if they'd been governor when the Legislature passed Utah's abortion law, they'd have vetoed it. All others said they'd have signed it, but Minson added she'd have insisted the attorney general's office defend it.