As GOP Rep. Mia Love and her Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, slam each other as untrustworthy in a barrage of negative ads, their stands on key issues seem to have become drowned out in all the noise.
But they have real differences on a range of policy issues from immigration to support of President Donald Trump, from Medicare and Social Security to health care, and from abortion to public lands.
Here is a look at the candidates’ positions on issues in the only congressional race in Utah that polls show is close enough to be competitive.
While both candidates call for better protection of the border, McAdams opposes Trump’s wall. Love has voted for bills that would help build or fund that wall.
McAdams supports a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” people brought as children into the country without documents by their parents. For other undocumented immigrants, he supports a pathway to legal residency — but perhaps not full citizenship.
“A pathway for permanent residency is probably reflecting the pragmatic realities” of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country, McAdams said. But to help promote legal immigration, “we don’t want too easy of a process on the other side” for the undocumented to win citizenship.
Love has said she favors and has voted for legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants — not just “Dreamers” — as long as they do not have criminal records and are working or going to school.
“I hate this idea that there are two sets of Americans … those who are Americans in their minds and hearts, but one set who can seek citizenship and others who cannot, no matter what,” including “Dreamers,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune’s editorial board.
Both oppose separation of families at the border. But McAdams charges that Love has not done enough to stop it and sometimes takes undue credit on the issue.
Love — a daughter of Haitian immigrants — scoffs at that, saying she helped push a bill to stop separating families and bucked House GOP leadership by signing a discharge petition that helped force votes on immigration bills. The bills in question failed to pass.
McAdams tweeted earlier in the campaign that Love “made one symbolic gesture on immigration and then retreated.” He added, “Only in Washington is failing to accomplish your goal a success. I solve problems by sitting down with people of both parties, and I won’t stop until we get something done.”
Love had responded at the time by encouraging The Tribune to call Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who she said would back up that Love is not taking any false credit and is a leader on immigration issues. Fudge did that.
“She has been a leader from the beginning,” Fudge said. “I cannot remember a time she did not deal with immigration. … She talked about a pathway to citizenship before it really got hot.”
Whether and how much each candidate supports Trump and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi of California has become an issue as their tight race is one of a relatively small number across the country that could decide control of the House.
When both were asked if they feel Trump is honest, McAdams responded, “No, he is not an honest person.” Love said, “I can’t answer that question. I don’t know him.”
Both say they will work with him on important items and oppose him when necessary.
“There isn’t anyone who calls out the president like I do. No one in this delegation does,” Love said, giving as an example her criticizing Trump when he called Haiti and African nations “s---hole countries.”
“I don’t answer to the president. I’m not scared of the president. I work with him when appropriate” — such as pushing for the release of Utahn Joshua Holt from a Venezuela prison, she said.
McAdams said he has learned as Salt Lake County’s mayor that sometimes “you work with people you don’t agree with and people you don’t trust. … I will be happy to work with [Trump] on issues that are right for Utah, but I think he has a lot of bad ideas, and we need someone in Washington who is willing to stand up.”
He says that Love “votes with Trump 97.5 percent of the time. … Nobody’s on Utah’s side 98 percent of the time.” The nonpartisan poll and statistical analysis site FiveThirtyEight puts her Trump-supporting vote rate at 95.7 percent.
While McAdams has stressed that he would not vote for Pelosi as speaker if Democrats win control of the House, Love contends that if the election of McAdams helps Democrats gain control of the House, “Nancy Pelosi will be speaker.”
McAdams has attacked Love for discussing raising the retirement age or altering Social Security and Medicare benefits. Love says that is deceptive, adding that she has only pointed out that reforms of the programs are needed to prevent them from going bankrupt.
McAdams said, “People have paid into it for a lifetime to sustain the Social Security trust fund, so I think it is a nonstarter to talk about cutting Social Security and Medicare.”
Love said, “Anybody who says they are not going to touch Social Security or Medicare ever is just saying they are OK with them going away. … I have to be able to make changes for my generation. I have to make changes for my children’s generation.”
To save the programs, she said, eventual benefits for people who are now younger than age 50 “are going to look a little different” — but she stresses she does not want to cut benefits for those who have already retired or are about to do so.
“These are things we have to start debating,“ Love said, “but people are scared to even talk about it.”
Both candidates say they favor in the future perhaps reducing benefits for wealthy people to help the programs survive.
Love has repeatedly voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” McAdams says he wants to work with both parties to fix it, instead of scrapping it.
“For the Democrats to push through the Affordable Care Act without a single vote, and the Republicans to push repeal and ‘Trumpcare’ without a single Democratic vote is endemic of a broken Washington,” McAdams said.
He vows to push to ensure parents are able to keep adult children on their insurance polices until age 26, and to oppose allowing insurance companies to refuse to accept people because of pre-existing conditions. He vows to ensure people do not lose government coverage for working hard and obtaining a raise.
Love said she has voted for legislation that “wasn’t completely doing away with but fixing some of the major issues we had with the Affordable Care Act.” She says, “We have got to lower the cost of health care” and will explore ways to do that.
In a perpetually a hot-button issue for Utah, Love has attacked McAdams as a champion of unrestricted abortion rights. He cried foul, saying his position on abortion is the same as hers. Both are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and actually take somewhat tougher stands than it does.
Both said in interviews that they believe abortion is wrong, except in rare cases like rape, incest and the “endangerment of the life of the mother.”
Their church also does not oppose abortion when the health of the mother is threatened. It also does not oppose the procedure when a fetus has severe defects that will prohibit survival beyond birth.
Despite their similar stands, Love attacked McAdams in a speech at the Salt Lake County Republican Convention, saying he was in the race to push ”unrestricted abortion and use your money to pay for it.”
McAdams quickly tweeted, “As an active Mormon, I find this attack offensive & not the way we do things in Utah. Typical mudslinging from a Washington insider.”
In interviews, Love said that with abortion, “you are taking a life.” She adds, “I believe it is my job to protect life at all stages of development.”
McAdams said while he opposes abortion, he sees it “as a personal decision that should be made in consultation with her doctor, with a faith counselor if she chooses, and other people she trusts.”
McAdams adds, “Abortion is too common, and I would support efforts to reduce the number of abortions. I think the best ways to do that is through education and access to reproductive contraception.”
As a state senator, McAdams did vote against some anti-abortion bills, including one to impose a 72-hour waiting period. He said most of those votes hinged on the fact the bills were poorly drafted.
Love said she sponsored a bill to allow obtaining contraception without prescriptions. She also supports legal efforts such as a Utah law imposing a waiting period before an abortion may be obtained. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List was a conduit to help Love raise nearly $13,000.
McAdams denounces as overly partisan Trump’s action to erase much of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. He has a similar criticism for the original designation of those protected areas.
McAdams says former President Bill Clinton created Grand Staircase in 1996 with no public input, which “caused some really hard feelings in Utah and that baggage lingered into the conversation on Bears Ears. Nevertheless, these are lands that are a national treasure, and they are an incredible driver of our Utah economy.”
While he said Clinton’s actions “were irresponsible, President Trump did the same thing. There was no stakeholder building except with a handful” of allies.
Love, meanwhile, said she supports Trump’s decision to shrink the monuments, saying that helps “the local people who are there. That’s how they feel. They feel they should have had more say than a president going in and cutting off access to that land.”
Still, she says, “I don’t like the decision-making being done by one person” and she would like to see more collaboration on national monument decisions.