Bishop, McAleer spar in lively 1st District debate
Challenger says a moderate is needed to end gridlock; incumbent says his constituents like him just fine.
Published: October 16, 2012 11:06AM
Updated: February 7, 2013 11:31PM
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Paul Fraughton | Salt Lake Tribune Representative Rob Bishop talks with his challenger for the 1st District Congressional Seat, Donna McAleer , before the start of their debate at the Pleasant Valley Library in Ogden. Monday, October 15, 2012

Washington Terrace • Rep. Rob Bishop says the vast majority of the 1st Congressional District shares his conservative GOP views — and residents want him to defend them. But Democrat Donna McAleer argues the district is becoming more centrist and wants a moderate like her who can work with both parties to end gridlock.

Both pushed those central themes Monday in a lively first public debate — where McAleer repeatedly attacked Bishop on everything from support of the military to protection of public lands and expanding deficits, and he complained she was distorting his stands and record.

McAleer told a crowd of 200 at the Pleasant View library, “I’m campaigning to be part of the solution, not part of the gridlock affecting Washington, not the gridlock that my opponent recently called historical and normal.” She said insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, so “change is not going to happen until we elect different people.”

Bishop said, “This is a conservative district in a conservative state. I am a conservative and make no bones about it. … I have the right philosophy. I also have the right experiences here in northern Utah and I also have the right positions in Washington to make biggest impact for you,” referring to serving on the powerful Rules Committee and as chairman of a public lands subcommittee.

McAleer, a West Point graduate who later led the global arm of a technology company and a nonprofit health clinic in Park City, especially attacked Bishop for what she said is a record of voting against military benefits and pay raises while voting to raise his own pay.

“He has voted against military pay raises for deployed troops,” McAleer said. “He has also voted against housing for our soldiers and increased educational opportunities.”

Bishop said he voted every year for a military pay increase in defense authorization and appropriations bills, but against other gimmick amendments he said are not serious legislation but used by parties for “gotcha votes” for use in campaigns.

McAleer attacked Bishop for supporting efforts by Republican Utah legislators to sue the federal government for control of public lands. “This is complete buffoonery,” she said. “I believe in the value of stewarding the sanctity of those public lands,” and contended Utah gave up the right to public lands at statehood and said federal protection prevents exploitation.

“In the last statement, there was nothing that was actually factually true,” Bishop retorted. “The idea that only people in Washington are smart enough to make those decisions is ludicrous,” and he said local control is needed to help public lands produce more revenue for state schools.

McAleer also attacked Bishop for voting “for bloated budgets.” He said he votes every year for the leanest spending bills introduced, and, if they fail, he votes for the next leanest.

McAleer said that as a moderate she would look forward to working with either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney as president. “I stand ready to support either administration. We need to move this country forward.”

Bishop said he wants a Romney administration, but “I know how to work with Democrats. … I have a history of doing that.”