While it was little like the presidential debate of the night before (thank goodness for that), the 4th Congressional debate between Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, and Democrat Doug Owens did have a few lively moments.
The harshest language came from Love, who said Owens was “dishonest” for running a TV ad criticizing her for sending out extensive mailers to constituents in recent months.
Owens didn’t apologize, said he never would, for pointing out a blatant “self promoting” piece paid for with taxpayer dollars. He said he never would do so and would work to end the practice “immediately” if he were elected.
And the chance of his being elected is not looking good, if you go by the most recent UtahPolicy poll in the 4th District by Dan Jones & Associates.
That survey over a month ago finds the race has opened up – not close as it was two years ago. At the time, Love held a 13-percentage point lead over Owens.
But recent events with Donald Trump imploding nationally may have an impact on the 4th District race. Love never endorsed Trump.
After Trump’s sexist tape was revealed over the weekend – and a second presidential debate where Trump didn’t help himself a whole lot – Love said again she would not vote for him.
Owens said he was voting for his party’s presidential nominee (he didn’t mention Hillary Clinton by name) but doesn’t endorse her – a rather weak difference.
Instead, both Love and Owens said they would bring Utah values to Washington, D.C., with Love saying several times the U.S. House has to remain in Republican control to balance whoever is in the White House.
Love also attacked Owens saying if he wins the race, he would vote for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House again.
Owens didn’t address that question, but several times hit Love hard over her mailers – “It cost $310,000 of your taxes” – and said Congress should work five days a week in D.C. and not take “luxury” airplane trips.
Love said her most important work is not in D.C. at all, but back in her district, where she works to solve citizens problems with the Veterans Administration, or Social Security and the like.
Looking even thinner than she has in the past – maybe doing more “running” than just for Congress, Love seemed well-prepared for her debate against Owens, who has spent time as a lawyer in the courtroom and always seems poised.
This is the only 4th District TV debate that may be coming this election season, sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission, moderated by the always dapper Ken Verdoia of KUED Channel 7, and held on the Miller Campus of the Salt Lake Community College.
After a close defeat to Love in 2014, Owens’ rematch was believed to the leading Utah contest this year. But the presidential and gubernatorial GOP primary contests have sucked most of the air from the rematch.
And that appears to be a good thing for Love. Owens has struggled to make a dent in her rather milquetoast Congressional record. She’s made few missteps, one coming last year when she had to reimburse U.S. House accounts for several disallowed travel expenses.
Love seemed to stop any Owens advance this summer with a negative TV ad pairing Owens with the GOP-much-disliked former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and the former’s legal role in the Legacy Highway federal lawsuit.
Besides the back and forth over Love’s congressional mailer (she said she saved the mailer money by not hiring a “huge” D.C. staff and returned office account funds to the Treasury), the two differed more on style than substance Monday evening.
A few differences, however:
Owens said he would vote for a higher minimum wage, but didn’t say how high.
Love, pushed by Verdoia, said no, she would not support an “artificial” hike in the minimum wage, that growing the economy, lowering unemployment, results in natural minimum wage growth as businesses compete for fewer low-end workers.
Owens said he has a “jobs plan” that includes lowering the federal corporate income tax (something Republicans usually call for).
Both called for less federal regulation.
Love said she often works across the aisle and is proud that a Black Caucus Democrat is supporting her re-election.
Owens said Love voted 98 percent of the time with U.S. House Republicans, and that is not working across the aisle.
Love brought a military vet to the debate with her and said she has voted for every veterans bill.
Owens said he believes humans are causing global warming and he sees an opportunity for Utah to lead out in alternative energy – good jobs and solve a climate crisis all in one.
Love didn’t say if she believes humans are causing global warming, but recognizes some in her party do not. Instead of arguing about it, let’s work together towards solving the problems – and just going against coal is a “false choice.”
There are laws forcing equal pay for equal work and they should be enforced to help women in the workplace, said Owens.
Love said as a woman in a very male Congress she sees these problems, but when government gets involved in the marketplace, most often it harms those it intends to help. Grow the economy through innovation, and educate women for those new jobs.
Several times Love brought up that Georgia Democratic Rep. David Scott endorses her campaign.
Scott is a member of the Black Caucus in the House, and, of course, Love was the first Republican African-American women ever elected to the U.S. House.
Both Love and Owens have received outside financial help in this rematch.
And Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told a conference call among his caucus members that he would not help in Trump’s campaign, but would instead work to keep the GOP House majority.
Ryan has appeared in Utah before for Love, but it is unclear if a national GOP leader here would be valuable with Love leading Owens and only a month left before the election.