Moderator Ken Verdoia welcomes Republican Congressman Rob Bishop and Democratic challenger Donna McAleer Tuesday to the Utah Debate Commission's 1st Congressional District debate at Weber State University. ()
Moderator Ken Verdoia welcomes Republican Congressman Rob Bishop and Democratic challenger Donna McAleer Tuesday to the Utah Debate Commission’s 1st Congressional District debate at Weber State University. (Tom Smart)

Candidates threw barbs at each other Tuesday during the first congressional debate at WSU. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop from the first congressional district debated his democratic challenger Donna McAleer.

McAleer took shots at Bishop, claiming he has 12 years in office and doesn’t have a record to show for it. McAleer focused on the current gridlock in Congress and criticized Bishop’s role in the government shutdown.

“It’s time to retire the guardian of the gridlock,” McAleer said. She added Utahans were angry with Congress and upset with the inaction.

McAleer mentioned the polls that show an unhappiness with Congress, yet she said 87 percent of incumbents get reelected.

Bishop claimed the gridlock in Congress between the House and the Senate was not partisan. He said they have passed more than 350 bills, most of which were passed with bipartisan support, and are currently sitting on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming everything on Harry Reid, but I am,” Bishop said.

Bishop said the only way to change the gridlock in the Senate was to vote democrat senators out. He added that whether he or McAller is elected, the gridlock won’t change if there are still democrats in the Senate.

When asked in the press conference if Bishop really thought the gridlock was the responsibility of one man, he replied, “Yes.”

McAleer said Washington needed someone who would take action and get things done and not complain and blame the problems on others.

Here’s where the candidates stood on other issues:

Air Quality:

McAleer said we need more strict regulations because we don’t regulate ourselves.

Bishop said, “Much of the standards they put on air pollution are arbitrary,” adding that Utah’s air quality is a product of Utah’s geography.

Economy:

Bishop said federal government intervention and more regulations have stifled companies’ abilities to grow and mentioned several job bills he has passed in the House that are sitting on Reid’s desk.

McAleer said we have to close loopholes that allow large corporations to pay little-to-no income tax.

Gun control:

McAleer spoke of her experience handling high-powered firearms in the military police for the army, and mentioned the danger involved. Referring to high magazine clips and assault rifles she said, “If you want to shoot these things, join the military or the police.”

Bishop said he doesn’t want to punish law-abiding citizens who own guns. He said the problem isn’t legal guns but illegal guns.

“Society is not more safe with more restrictions,” he said.

The Affordable Care Act:

McAleer said there are great provisions in the bill and Congress should work to make it better and not attempt to repeal it 51 times. She said the bill has been law for only a year so we need more time to evaluate it’s effects.

Bishop said the bill was passed too soon and too fast and America wasn’t ready for it. He said much better bills have been presented in Congress but the Senate won’t pass them.

The Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service hosted the debate through the Utah Debate Commission.

The Utah Debate Commission formed as an attempt to bring more Utahans into the process. The commission has a deal between the four-year state universities and major media companies in Utah to broadcast all debates for federal-level offices in Utah.

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