Analysis: Stewart/Albarran Debate Won’t Move the Needle Much

Albarran StewartA not-so-fearless prediction. Tuesday’s 2nd Congressional District debate between incumbent Republican Chris Stewart and Democrat Charlene Albarran won’t do anything to change voters minds come November.

Stewart is leading Albarran by nearly 30-points in our polling.

The biggest flashpoint in the one-hour faceoff was whether Albarran lived in Salt Lake City or Park City. Inexplicably, Albarran vehemently insisted that Park City, where she maintains a home, is within the borders of Utah’s 2nd District. It is most decidedly not.

Back to that in a moment.

Stewart was the most polished of the two candidates, but he was often factually challenged.

Albarran was visibly uncomfortable on the stage and often gave “word salad” answers to questions as she fought to pack as much information into her allotted time as she could.

For instance, at one point Stewart claimed that the abortion rate was rising. In fact, the Associated Press reported that the number of abortions in the U.S. had declined 12% between 2010 and 2015.

Stewart also claimed that the deficit had doubled during the time that Barack Obama has been in office. In fact, the debt has only grown by about 70% since Obama took office in 2009. Additionally, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget points out much of the framework for that deficit increase was already in place when he took office.

Albarran often gave answers that seemed like they were only half-formed thoughts as she rapidly ping-ponged between concepts during her statements.

Back to the Park City issue. As reported in March, Albarran claimed a downtown Salt Lake City address when she filed to run for the 2nd Congressional District. It turns out, Albarran rented an apartment in Salt Lake City just a few days before filing. She still maintains a multi-million dollar home in Park City.

“You don’t even live in the 2nd District,” Stewart zinged Albarran about halfway through the discussion. “You live in Park City.”

Albarran responded saying she lives in Salt Lake City 6 days a week.

Stewart pressed his attack, saying she was trying to “fool people” by claiming she lived in the district. Albarran responded with an incredible howler.

“Park City is haunting him for some reason,” she joked. “Part of Park City is in the district. Not the street I live on, but parts of it are.”

As you can see from this map pulled from the Utah Lt. Governor’s website, Park City is wholly in the 1st Congressional District, which is represented by Republican Rob Bishop. There is one part of a Summit Park neighborhood that is in Salt Lake County.

Albarran Stewart Map

Albarran’s best answer of the evening came when she slammed Stewart for his doublespeak on Republican nominee Donald Trump, noting he called Trump America’s version of Mussolini, then endorsed him three weeks later.

“Is he standing up for the people or his allegiance to the Republican Party,” she said.

From that point, the debate followed a well-worn partisan path. Stewart identified national security and the economy as the top issues facing voters while Albarran pointed to air quality. Stewart opposes the creation of a Bears Ears national monument while Albarran is in favor.

In the end, each was asked to defend their party’s presidential nominee. Albarran said she agrees with Hillary Clinton on many policy issues like paid maternity leave and renewable energy. Stewart pointed out he preferred Marco Rubio, but he felt Donald Trump’s tax plan is “brilliant.”

If we had to pick a winner in tonight’s debate, my vote would go to debate moderator Ken Verdoia. He deftly followed up on questions that deserved a more thorough discussion and moved the conversation along, something that had been sorely lacking in previous debates.