If you’re gonna try to take down longtime Rep. Rob Bishop, it will take a much better effort than what happened Wednesday night in Logan.
Democrat Lee Castillo and United Utah Party nominee Eric Eliason went after Bishop hard during their televised debate, but both looked woefully out of their league against the 8-term congressman. Castillo stumbled and spoke in fits and starts as he struggled to find answers to several questions. Eliason was swimming upstream as he tried to go toe-to-toe with Bishop on policy.
That’s not to say the two didn’t get in a few good shots on Bishop.
When discussing the topic of climate change, Castillo hit Bishop for inaction on air quality.
“We’re here in Logan, and you have horrible air quality. Your congressman has done nothing about it,” he said.
Eliason zinged Bishop for his perceived reliance on campaign contributions from energy interests and then voting in favor of those industries.
“I’m glad Rep. Bishop has acknowledged that climate change is real. It’s often difficult for a man to understand something when hie salary depends on it,” he said. “Half of Utah is in a state of emergency because of lack of water. Water is the #1 natural resource for Utah.”
Bishop sidestepped those jabs saying there’s no single cause or solution to the problem of climate change. “We need to allow Americans to be creative in finding solutions.”
When asked about the ballooning federal deficit, which has grown 17% over the past year to $779 billion, Castillo and Eliason blamed the $2.3 trillion tax cuts passed by Congress at the end of last year, while Bishop said it’s more of a spending problem.
“We went too far with the corporate tax cuts and tax cuts that went to wealthy Americans,” said Eliason.
“We cannot continue to bear the burden because Congress wanted to give the top 1% a tax cut,” added Castillo.
Bishop disagreed saying, “This idea that the federal government has to pay for everything is wrong. Those tax cuts went to every American. There’s actually more money coming into the system now. We have a spending problem, not a tax cut problem.”
As expected, the decision by President Trump to slash the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuements was a point of contention on Wednesday’s debate stage. Castillo and Eliason smacked Bishop, a longtime critic of Grand Staircase and Bears Ears, for allegedly pushing hard to open up those public lands to oil, gas and mining interests who donate to his campaign. But, Bishop was not going to stand for that.
“I find it unfair that people say I sell my votes. I stand for principles. I don’t care who gives me money. To say otherwise is unfair,” said Bishop.
“I find that hard to believe,” shot back Castillo.
On immigration, Bishop said the first thing that needs to be done is addressing border security, which will reduce anxiety and fear and allow other solutions to be addressed.
“Compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. Let’s do first things first. Control the border then we can get rid of the anger and anxiety around this issue,” said Bishop.
“The president is the person who is inflaming the anger about the borders. We need to treat people humanely. I’m not talking about open borders,” said Castillo. “I want to stand up when I see children separated from their families and put in cages. That’s not right.”
“Congress has been kicking this can down the road for decades. These questions were being asked at debates in 1980,” added Eliason.
Bishop is the heavy favorite to win a 9th term in Congress this year, which he says will be his last. FiveThirtyEight.com gives Bishop a 99.9% chance of winning next month.