If you want to see what a real, competent TV candidate debate looks like, you should have seen Tuesday night’s 3rd Congressional District event between GOP Rep. John Curtis and Democratic challenger James Singer, put on by the Utah Debate Commission at Utah Valley University.
From a good moderator – BYU political science professor David Magleby – to questions from Utah Valley University students, to the respectful audience itself, the debate was informative, civil and comprehensive.
Congrats to all.
But especially to Curtis and Singer – who actually answered most the questions head on, and didn’t attack each other along the way. You can see the debate at the commission’s website.
Of course, Curtis can afford to be civil – he’s way ahead in this very Republican district and almost certain to win his first, full two-year term.
Singer, besides being a nice guy, is a sociologist, working on his Ph.D. and teaching at Westminster College.
Utah Democrats have found a really articulate progressive in Singer. It will be interesting to see if he runs for an office he could actually win in the near future. At just 36, Singer has time ahead to find that office.
There are real differences between Curtis – known as a mainstream conservative – and Singer.
Here are just a few:
Singer actually promotes legalizing medical marijuana and recreational use of the drug. He said the U.S. imprisons more people than any other country, and half of all drug offenders could be let out of jail if pot were legalized.
Curtis is OK with medical marijuana, in controlled circumstances, but not recreational use.
Singer wants a single-payer health insurer like Medicare.
Curtis wants to make improvements on the Affordable Care Act, favors keeping insurance for pre-existing conditions, but not ready to endorse keeping children on their parent’s insurance until age 26.
Singer wants some kind of “common sense” gun control – outlawing assault rifles with comprehensive background checks and purchase waiting times.
Curtis, a former shooting range owner, and NRA lecturer, says many smart things can be done to make students safer in their schools, including identifying troubled teens, but banning guns is not part of that.
Curtis supports (and voted for) Trump’s tax cuts; he also favors the “middle income” tax cut Trump now wants.
Singer said giving tax cuts to the “lazy loafers” at the top 1 percent and corporations was a really bad idea. Middle-income folks and “workers” should get real tax help, along with government programs aimed at helping them be educated and job trained.
Allowing immigrants into the United States is an economic boom, said Singer. DACAs should be allowed to stay. A native American himself, Singer notes that his Navajo ancestors allowed white people into their lands.
Curtis harshly criticized Congress – Republicans and Democrats – for not fixing America’s immigration problems. Yes, more security at the southern border, but more immigration judges and counselors to help immigrants, as well.
As has been noted in some other critiques of the debate format used by the Debate Commission, there were some oddities Tuesday night.
At one point, Curtis answered a question, and Singer declined a rebuttal. Curtis then said he would like to rebut himself – getting an extra 30 seconds to talk.
Singer talked over Curtis for a moment, saying to Magleby he thought Curtis was joking – getting more time to talk about your own response? Curtis got the extra time.
Curtis said he has spent a lot of time thinking about what is an impeachable offense – as it is clear to him that if Democrats win control of the U.S. House in the elections, they will move to impeach GOP President Donald Trump.
Curtis said while he was not in Congress when the GOP House impeached former Democratic President Bill Clinton, looking back now he, Curtis, wouldn’t have voted for impeachment – the “very high bar” of impeachment not reached.
Singer said Congress should examine the complaints against Trump – that is its role. But only the “talking heads” on TV care about Trump impeachment. Congress should be doing the work of the people, who really don’t care about impeaching the president. “We need to be more united,” said Singer.