Curtis and Herrod provide some fireworks, and plenty of policy differences in 3rd CD debate

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “Hold out baits to entice the enemy.” For about 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, Rep. John Curtis was mostly able to ignore the bait from his GOP primary opponent Chris Herrod. 

Herrod needled Curtis for not being a conservative, for not supporting President Trump on immigration, and for his record as the Mayor of Provo.

Then, during a discussion about the Constitution, Curtis had enough.

Herrod hit Curtis’s voting record in Congress, saying his votes have “expanded the federal government.” 

“I’d like you to list those votes individually,” said Curtis. “We’ve hardly made it through this debate without you answering a question with my name in it. I’d like to know about you.”

Moderator Jennifer Napier-Pierce wisely mostly ditched the constraining format imposed on the event by the Utah Debate Commission and let the two men have at each other for a too-brief moment, which led to the best exchange in recent Utah debate memory.

“Every election year, everybody says they are a conservative, then they try to hide it,” taunted Herrod. “You say you’re a fiscal conservative, but your record with Provo city does not back that up.”

“You and I have been running against each other for a long time. I’m getting tired of you saying your brand of conservatism is the right kind,” Curtis responded. “As if I don’t love the Constitution. As if I don’t love this country as much as you do. To an extremist, everybody is a moderate.”

The two then went on to land a couple of political haymakers on each other before Napier-Pierce broke it up.

“My frustration is we can’t be honest. It’s fine if you’re a moderate or liberal. Just own it,” jeered Herrod.

“Why is it that you get to define conservatism and nobody else is unless they pound the pulpit like you do, unless they rant from the mountaintops,” countered Curtis. 

The build-up to that verbal crescendo started early on as Herrod tried to differentiate himself from Curtis from the outset. 

“I believe one of the most conservative districts in the nation deserves to have a true conservative represent them in Congress,” he said. 

During the hour-long debate, Herrod did his darndest to get as close to President Donald Trump’s agenda as possible, endorsing Trump’s brinksmanship negotiating style toward North Korea and international trade.

“I support President Trump’s agenda,” said Herrod. “You have to be a legitimate threat. Trump pushes that envelope. Do I want a war (with North Korea)? No. But you have to go up to that brink.”

Curtis broke from Trump on several issues, including international trade, saying Trump’s proposed trade tariffs were hurting Utah’s economy.

“Just the talk of tariffs are causing problems with Utah’s economy,” said Curtis. “But it’s more than tariffs. NAFTA is still unresolved. We need to focus on things that are good for our economy.”

Herrod hit Curtis for voting to bring the omnibus spending bill to the floor for a vote. Curtis ultimately voted against the bill, but Herrod sneered that Curtis’s vote was hollow because he didn’t buck leadership and try to stop the bill before the vote.

‘Not sure which extremist blog you got that theory from,” mocked Curtis. “If you had been in my place and voted that way, Nancy Pelosi would have given you a big bear hug.”

“You need to get past the PR,” Herrod fired back. “If you truly believe our national debt is a serious issue, you have to take this seriously.”

Herrod and Curtis took different positions on immigration. Herrod wants to build President Trump’s border wall while Curtis advocates for more border security, but not necessarily the wall. 

Voters go to the polls in the 3rd District GOP primary on June 28. The winner between Curtis and Herrod will face Democrat James Singer, United Utah Party candidate Melanie McCoard, and Independent American Party nominee Greg Duerden.