PROVO, Utah >> Three candidates running to replace Jason Chaffetz in the U.S. House of Representatives all agreed in a debate today that they want to help young immigrants known as “Dreamers” and ban firearm devices that allow guns to mimic automatic fire, but they differed sharply on the specifics and on issues like health care and public lands.
Provo Mayor John Curtis, a Republican, Democrat Kathryn Allen, and United Utah Party candidate Jim Bennett, representing a new centrist party, faced-off in an hour-long debate at Brigham Young University, their third debate of four scheduled before Election Day on Nov. 7.
Curtis is considered the front-runner as the Republican candidate in a congressional district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 5-1.
Allen, a family physician, raised half a million dollars for her campaign earlier this year when she announced she would challenge Chaffetz. Her fundraising slowed when Chaffetz, a Republican known for his hard-charging investigations of Hillary Clinton, abruptly resigned in June, leaving her in a special election to fill the remainder of his term.
Bennett, the son of former GOP Sen. Bob Bennett, is running as the first candidate of a new political party he helped found.
A look at the candidates’ key comments during the debate:
All three candidates said they’d like to find some way to protect young immigrants known as “Dreamers” from deportation, but Curtis they need to be considered as part of a larger look at immigration as a whole. He said the U.S. needs to make it easier for immigrants to become citizens or guest workers.
Allen and Bennett both decried President Donald Trump’s plan for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, with Bennett calling it a “xenophobic symbol” that represents the worst of America. Curtis didn’t address the wall during the debate but has said he supports the wall but believes it may be more appropriate to use technology instead to secure some parts of the border.
Curtis said he’d support bipartisan efforts to fix the Affordable Care Act health care law and said free-market principles will help lower costs and increase competition.
Allen and Bennett said free-market solutions won’t address America’s health care problems, including high costs of care and access to coverage. They said people will seek care in an emergency situation because they need it, not because they’ve shopped around and compared prices for treatment.
In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in Las Vegas earlier this month, the candidates were all asked what gun control measures, if any, they would support.
All three candidates said they’d support a ban on bump stocks, devices that the gunman used that allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic fully automatic guns.
Allen, who said she suspects she’s the only person on the debate stage “who has watched someone die of a gunshot wound,” said she doesn’t want to confiscate weapons used for personal protection or hunting but she would also like to see universal background checks.
The candidates were all asked about U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah’s effort to restrict the president’s ability to protect millions of acres of federal land considered historic, geographically significant or culturally important. Bishop’s move follows President Barack Obama’s controversial decision in December to declare Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah.
Bishop’s plan would prevent presidents from designating monuments larger than 85,000 acres and grant veto power to states and local officials for monuments larger than 10,000 acres.
Curtis said he supports the effort, saying there’s no check on a president’s power under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to sweep lands into protected status. Bennett called Bishop’s plan a great starting point for discussion, but Allen said she opposed it. She said it would have blocked the initial protections of lands that become Utah’s national parks. She told reporters afterward that she thinks there may need to be some checks on the presidential power under the Antiquities Act, but Bishop’s proposal is too restrictive.
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