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Mia Love, Ben McAdams Trade Jabs In Heated Debate For 4th District

Scott Winterton, Deseret News / Pool Photos

Candidates in Utah’s most competitive race for the U.S. House of Representatives clashed in their first and only debate on Monday night, just hours after a new poll showed the two in a dead heat.

Republican Rep. Mia Love is vying for a third term to represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District against Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, a Democrat.

In her opening statement, Rep. Mia Love said she had been an effective representative for the 4th Congressional District, passing several bills since 2015.

“People need results in the 4th District, and I am committed to making sure I continue achieving those results,” she said.

It took less than a few minutes for both candidates to begin sparring at the Salt Lake Community College Sandy campus over issues such as health care, trade and the national debt.

Love’s challenger, Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, said Love had become too entrenched in Washington’s dysfunctional politics in the Trump era. On immigration, McAdams pointed to what he said was the congresswoman’s inconsistent record.

“We need to judge our Congress by their outcomes, not their desires or their words,” said McAdams.

Love, the daughter of Haitian parents, said she had often bucked her party on issues such as renewing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young undocumented immigrants.

“I’ve taken some hits for taking on my leadership on these issues,” she said. “But it was the right thing to do … because I don’t take orders from the leadership, I don’t take orders from the White House, I take my orders from Utah’s 4th Congressional District.”

During one tense exchange, both candidates were allowed to ask each other a question.

Love asked McAdams who he would be voting for, a reference to his residency in the 2nd Congressional District. Candidates for federal office do not have to reside in the district they are running in.

McAdams did not respond directly, instead pointing to his track record as mayor.

“She has been absent on many of the issues Salt Lake County faces,” he said. “As the mayor of Salt Lake County, I travel every corner of this county … I feel like I know every pothole and blade of grass that’s being maintained.”

In turn, McAdams asked Love about constituent engagement and town halls — a frequent criticism of Love, who has preferred inviting constituents to smaller gatherings.

“I hold open office hours because I want people to actually come in [and] have a dialogue with me,” said Love, claiming she had held dozens of “town halls” of varying sizes.

The debate comes on the heels of a new poll showing the two are in a neck-and-neck race. According to a Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics poll released Monday, Love and McAdams are tied at 46 percent each, with only 8 percent of voters undecided.

In an internal poll released Friday by the McAdams campaign, the Democrat was shown leading Love by 1 percent.

The largely suburban 4th District includes much of Salt Lake County and parts of Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties.

Love was elected to the House in 2014, becoming the first black Republican woman elected to Congress as well as the first Haitian-American.

Political observers now consider the race a toss-up and both Love and McAdams said they are energized to turn out the vote.

“I’ve had substantive accomplishments — I talked about my five bills [passed],” said Love to reporters after the debate. “This is about getting things done. ....This is not about attacks and trying to destroy a fellow American in their pursuit of political power.”

Asked whether voters would be put off by the negative turn in the campaign, McAdams said his disagreements with Love are policy related only.

“Campaigns are about disagreements, and highlighting the disagreements from each respective campaign, said McAdams. “Rep. Love — I like her, I think she’s a fine person, we have stark disagreements about her voting record ... but it’s not personal.”


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