Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson and Republican challenger Mia Love traded testy and pointed shots in their third debate Saturday, with Matheson saying Love is unprepared for Congress and Love criticizing Matheson for failing to tackle tough problems during his 12 years in office.
Matheson said Love has made sweeping proposals to slash programs without understanding what the cuts would mean — focusing specifically on her pitch to eliminate college aid, reduce support for Israel and dismantle the Department of Energy.
"This is just another example where I don’t think my opponent has done her homework, I don’t think she has the experience, I don’t think she’s ready for the job of representing [Utah in] the United States Congress," Matheson said.
"I can tell you’re being a little condescending," Love retorted. "You don’t have to be so condescending."
Matheson said that he wasn’t trying to be condescending.
"Being in Congress is a tough job. The issues are tough, and you’ve got to work really hard to understand them and they’re not that simple. You can’t follow one party or the other all the time," he said.
Love sought to turn Matheson’s experience against him, saying that while he talks about solving problems, he doesn’t have a record to back it up.
"My opponent has been in office for 12 years, and I have yet to see a plan for health care and how we’re going to get health care back on its feet," she said. "I have yet to see a plan about how we’re going to get our deficit spending under control or how we’re going to lower the national debt. So why would this year be any different?"
The matchup for the 4th District race is among the most hotly contested congressional fights in the country, with the candidates, national parties and political action committees backing the contenders and pouring more than $3 million into television ads on both sides.
Love said she has been the target of $2 million of negative, liberal ads "wrongfully attacking my record." Matheson said nobody likes negative ads, but it is important to offer "legitimate comparisons between the candidates."
The third of four meetings between the two — this one sponsored by ABC 4 News and AARP — covered much of the same ground as their previous debates: Matheson assailed Love for proposing elimination of college aid and federal funds to police departments; Love again touted her endorsement by Mitt Romney and criticized Matheson for not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2011.
She also accused Matheson of undermining Medicare by not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which she said cuts $700 billion from the health care program for the elderly.
The bill uses $700 billion in projected Medicare savings to expand insurance coverage to the uninsured through Medicaid. Love supports Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which relies on the same $700 billion in Medicare reductions.
Both candidates said they would tell a gay child that they oppose same-sex marriage. They disagreed on global warming, which Matheson said he believes is real and affecting Utah habitat and ski resorts. Love said the climate warms and cools and "that’s what the earth does."
Love misfired when she accused Matheson of squandering taxpayer money.
"My opponent took $535 million of taxpayer dollars and funded Solyndra with it," Love charged, referring to the green energy company that went out of business after receiving government loans.
"There’s never been a vote in legislation that said Solyndra," Matheson said. "To suggest somehow I picked the Solyndra project and voted for it, that’s just not being honest with the voters."
Love shot back that Matheson should have read the bill and "if he didn’t know it was in there, I’m quite concerned that he voted for it without knowing it was in there."
Solyndra is not mentioned in the bill. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act put money into the loan program, which was awarded by the Obama administration.
Matheson, meantime, accused Love of wanting to eliminate the Department of Energy, leaving the nation’s nuclear weapons program in limbo. While she has called for the elimination of the department previously, her more specific proposals don’t dismantle the department.
She said Saturday that nuclear weapons programs should be in the Defense Department, which was also the recommendation of the Cato Institute, a think-tank that Love drew from for her proposed budget cuts.
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