Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
📺 WATCH LIVE: Salt Lake City mayoral debate @ 6p

Mike Lee, Misty Snow Tussle Over LGBT Rights, Religious Liberty In Cordial Debate

Julia Ritchey/KUER
Sen. Mike Lee and Misty Snow answer questions from reporters following their debate at Brigham Young University on Oct. 12.

Republican Sen. Mike Lee faced off against Democratic challenger Misty Snow in their first and only debate at Brigham Young University on Wednesday night. 

The debate started cordially enough between the incumbent Sen. Mike Lee and Misty Snow.

Lee touted his work over the last six years fighting for smaller government and protecting the Constitution, while Snow highlighted her upstart, working-class background as a 31-year-old grocery clerk.

Early on, both candidates found agreement on some issues. They said college should be more affordable, marijuana restrictions should be reviewed and that Muslims should not be banned from the U.S. — as Donald Trump has proposed.

Their first major clash, however, was a personal one, over the question of religious liberty. Lee said legislation he’s proposed would prevent the government from intervening in matters of faith.

“What we’re talking about here is protecting religious individuals and institutions like BYU, so that their tax exempt status cannot be denied and so that no other adverse action can be taken against them based on their religious beliefs,” said Lee.

Snow insisted that what Lee was describing was a form of discrimination.

“I would encourage religious institutions like BYU or any other to treat all students equally regardless of whether they’re LGBT," she said. "I think that is the loving, humane, compassionate thing to do.”

Lee also defended his role in the government shutdown of 2013, accusing the Obama administration of being unwilling to compromise over the Affordable Care Act.

“President Obama shut down the government,” said Lee. “You’ve been told otherwise by the media, but they’re wrong.” 

Snow called the episode shameful.

“I don’t think Congress should shut down the government,” said Snow. “Congress has a job to govern; they have a job to pass the budget.”

Snow is the first transgender candidate to be nominated by a major party to run for Senate, but her gender identity never became an issue during the debate. She faces long odds. The last three polls have shown Lee with a more than a 30-point lead. 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.