Like their hard-hitting negative TV ads in recent weeks, GOP Rep. Mia Love and Democrat Ben McAdams came out throwing punches, jabs and attempted haymakers Monday in their one and only debate.
Consider a sequence that started when Love was asked if any federal action could have made life easier for her back when she was mayor of Saratoga Springs.
She sidestepped the question to say, “We didn’t take developments like Olympia Hills and shove it down people’s throats without anybody knowing what was going on. We didn’t take over $10,000 from developers who wanted to build over 9,000 new housing units” with high density near Herriman, saying McAdams did that.
McAdams, the mayor of Salt Lake County, countered that when he heard public outcry about that development after the County Council approved it, “I did something that I never heard Rep. Love do: I held a town hall meeting.” Then after hearing protests, “I vetoed that proposal.”
Love does not hold traditional town halls open to all comers, but she has held 85 small group and open office meetings. “Mayor McAdams may not have gotten the notice, probably because he doesn’t live in the district. He lives in the 2nd District,” she said.
Later, when Love was permitted to ask McAdams any question, she asked for whom he would vote for Congress — again to show that he does not live in the 4th District. He avoided her question, but said much of the 4th District is in Salt Lake County where he serves, “and I travel every corner of this county ... and Rep. Love is absent” in that part of the district.
The debate at Salt Lake Community College’s Miller Campus in Sandy saw Love try to tie McAdams to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, McAdams try to attach Love to President Donald Trump — plus jousting over whether some fundraising by Love was illegal, and battles over what their stands really are on a variety of issues.
In her closing statement, Love said the Federal Election Commission called her unsolicited on Monday to tell her she had not broken any laws by raising $1 million for a primary election that was never held. The FEC earlier wrote her, advising she would have to return or reallocate that money, which she said she raised legally.
She said she was told “that my campaign was legally allowed to raise primary-election contributions and that we may retain all primary-election contributions that we received before” the state GOP convention that nominated her to avoid a primary.
She charged that McAdams “knew full well that no illegal fundraising had taken place. ... I am asking McAdams to hold himself accountable by acknowledging and apologizing for his false commercial and mailers [attacking that fundraising]. My family and the voters deserve an apology.”
McAdams countered that no official letter has yet been posted about the matter by the FEC, so he is unsure what the agency has said. But he noted that Love raised more than $300,000 for the primary after she already became the GOP nominee, “and that was a violation” of federal law.
Trump vs. Pelosi
McAdams continually attacked Love for voting “97.5 percent of the time” with Donald Trump. Love attacked McAdams for being part of the “party of Nancy Pelosi.”
“We are seeing a partisan agenda being forwarded by Rep. Love to the detriment of the people of Utah. I want people to see that I am somebody who will put Utah first,” McAdams said — charging that Love takes money from big Pharma, then votes to cut health care, and from big oil and then votes in ways that hurt air pollution.
Love countered she is the only member of the all-GOP Utah congressional delegation who has stood up to Trump on occasion — such as criticizing some of his statements about immigrants (her parents are immigrants). She said she also works with him when he is right, such as helping Utahn Joshua Holt be freed from Venezuela.
As an example of Love trying to tie McAdams to Pelosi, she noted that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was enacted as “Nancy Pelosi, the party of Ben McAdams and Democrats said they had to pass it before they knew what was in it.” She added, “My opponent may be naïve and say he’s not going to vote for Nancy Pelosi,” but if Democrats gain control of the House “Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the House.”
Social Security, Medicare
McAdams attacked Love for what he said was voting to cut Social Security and Medicaid, including raising the retirement age. “We must preserve promises made to the older generation,” he said.
Love said she made no such votes — and challenged McAdams to come up with specifics, which he vowed to do later. She said his charges are “typical, unfounded scare tactics that we see used over and over again by national Democrats.”
She said reforms are needed to save Medicare and Social Security, so she said that proposals by McAdams to leave them relatively untouched would bankrupt them.
Tax reform, debt
McAdams attacked Love for what he said are adding to a $1.3 trillion national debt that he said is now shocking — while he said he has worked hard to achieve balanced budgets every year as mayor.
He said Love signed a pledge before her first election vowing never to vote to add to the national debt. “That promise has been broken,” he said.
Love said what McAdams was actually criticizing was her votes for Republican tax reform. “I would rather give people more funds so that we can grow the economy,” while she charged that McAdams had raised taxes every year as mayor.
McAdams said instead that he has “lowered the tax rate every year.”
While that is technically true, tax hikes as defined by state law occurred some years that he was mayor — including when he declined to lower taxes after some bonds were retired. But taxes did not increase every year, as Love charged.
About the harsh tone of the debate, McAdams said, “Campaigns are about disagreements. We highlighted the disagreements.” But Love complained that McAdams tried to “come after and try to destroy a fellow American in pursuit of political power,” or her, with his attacks.