U.S. Senate candidate Carolyn Phippen cut through the debates on border security and Ukraine assistance with one assertion.

“Our country is broke,” Phippen told the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards on Monday.

This financial fact — that the country is $34 trillion in debt — simplifies discussions on immigration and foreign aid and points to clear next steps, according to Phippen.

On immigration, force migrants to wait out the adjudication of asylum claims in Mexico where they can’t access U.S. welfare benefits. On Ukraine, cease further monetary and military support to avoid depleting U.S. weapons stocks.

Themes of fiscal conservatism, foreign intervention and illegal immigration have dominated Utah’s Republican primary race to replace Sen. Mitt Romney. Other Republican candidates, including Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and attorney Brent Hatch, have toed a similar party line.

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But by highlighting her background as the mother of five boys, Phippen has said she meets the demand for “something different.”

“I’m not a politician,” Phippen said.

However, Phippen, the former executive director of Freedom Front, counts on plenty of connections and policy know-how after working for some of Utah’s most prominent politicians. First, as chief of communications for former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and then as regional director and government affairs adviser to Sen. Mike Lee.

Phippen: Stop helping Ukraine, stand by Israel

When it comes to Ukraine, Phippen’s policy positions align closely with her former boss in the Senate.

“I think this is a war that is not ours to fight,” Phippen said. “I support no more resources.”

Phippen said the $100 billion in financial and military aid delivered to Ukraine has left the U.S. less prepared to defend itself and is a bad use of money the country doesn’t have. “We literally are $34.5 trillion in debt, if nobody noticed.”

Phippen’s views on Ukraine aid include more than fiscal concerns. She doesn’t believe supporting the Eastern European country in its defensive war against Russia is in America’s interest.

Phippen also said she doesn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin has expansionist ambitions. She even went so far as to say U.S. officials pushing for Ukraine to enter NATO and rejecting early peace talks are “egging it on instead of working toward peace.”

“This is a war that has dragged on, I think, completely unnecessarily and I think we have been a hindrance to peace,” Phippen said.

But Phippen’s opposition to foreign intervention does not extend to Israel, which she said was “strategically important” to the U.S.

U.S. Senate candidate Carolyn Phippen sits down to talk with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 8, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Where’s the money for immigration?

As with other Republican Senate candidates, Phippen prescribes a return to the border security policies of Donald Trump.

Congress must legislate what Trump started, Phippen said, finishing a border wall and reinstating his “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires migrants seeking asylum to wait out their immigration proceedings on the other side of the border.

Increasing the obstacles to enter the country illegally and eliminating the government’s “catch and release” policy will disincentivize border crossings, Phippen said. She added that this would free up Border Patrol agents, who are currently overwhelmed by humanitarian concerns, and reduce the cost for providing migrants with government services, currently totaling more than $450 billion, according to the House committee on Homeland Security.

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“When we’re broke, we can’t help anybody,” Phippen said. “It’s foolishness to think that math, economics, reality don’t apply to us.”

Phippen called the surge in illegal border crossings since President Joe Biden took office an “invasion.” “It literally is,” she said, citing the number of individuals from China, Venezuela and the Middle East who have recently entered the country illegally.

Phippen rejected any attempt to give legal status to migrants who enter the country illegally. Doing so would increase the number of migrants who enter the country through chain migration, she said, putting even greater strain on Social Security which is on its way to insolvency.

Doomed welfare? Well, reform it

Echoing the policy preference that Staggs and Wilson shared with the Deseret News, Phippen said Social Security must be privatized for those beginning the program after the next decade. Government insurance programs like Medicare also need an overhaul, Phippen said.

“There’s no more money,” she said.

Drawing on policy details she learned during the years she spent on Utah’s Capitol Hill, Phippen explained how Obamacare caused insurance premiums to raise to a level many middle class families can’t afford. She also suggested that Medicaid funds be block granted to the states so the amount can be capped.

On the issue of abortion, Phippen differed from some of her GOP opponents. She said after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, the question of abortion restrictions should be left to the states. She praised Utah’s abortion ban, which is still being held up by the courts, and criticized Trump’s support for a 15-week federal ban. She said elevating abortion to the federal level would eventually lead to blanket legalizations of abortion nationally.

A path leading through convention

Phippen has placed her primary ballot qualification completely in the hands of state delegates. Staggs has also taken this route. Moxie Pest Control CEO Jason Walton, 3rd District Congressman John Curtis, lawyer Brent Hatch and Wilson have opted to gather 28,000 voter signatures to make the ballot.

“I plan to come out as the party nominee,” Phippen said. “And I just plan for all you guys to take each other out and I’ll be the last man standing.”

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The Republican state convention will be held on April 27. Candidates who receive more than 40% of delegate votes, or who have gathered enough verified signatures, will appear on the primary ballot on June 25.

The GOP nominee who emerges from the primary will face off against the nominees from other registered political parties in the Nov. 5 general election.

Other Republican candidates, besides those already named, include certified public accountant Josh Randall, Bookroo founder Chandler Tanner, Brian Jenkins, Jeremy Friedbaum and Clark S. White.

The Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Utah include mountaineer Caroline Gleich, Archie Williams III and Laird Hamblin.