Love and McAdams face off in testy 4th District debate

This article originally appeared in Utah Policy. Read it in its entirety here.

The much-anticipated live TV debate between Mia Love and Ben McAdams provided a few fireworks Monday night, but likely not enough to move the needle much either way on this very close 4th Congressional District contest.

First, some general observations:

In this #MeToo climate, Democrat McAdams – who is a mild-mannered guy in the first place – couldn’t afford to get angry at Love, the first African-American Republican female congresswoman in U.S. history.

And he didn’t.

No lecturing a woman, no pointing at her, certainly no harsh glares. And it may have hurt him, as he seemed a little milquetoast in a number of questions.

In fact, several times it appeared it was Love who got frustrated at McAdams – and gave him a few angry eyes looks.

Love did quite well in the debate. She knows her facts, threw out names and bills and statistics. She was articulate, decisive.

One wonders why Love hasn’t been seen more in person this election cycle – it seems when the media wants to talk or interview her, she is never available. And her campaign manager, Dave Hansen, does all the talking – when Monday night showed she does very well on her own.

It is unclear how many Utahns watched the debate – carried live on the local TV channels as part of the Utah Debate Commission deal with the media.

Unfortunately, the debate was scheduled for a Monday night, opposite Monday Night Football on ESPN.

Earlier in the day, the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics released a new poll in the 4th District that shows McAdams has caught Love – 46 percent for each candidate with 8 percent undecided.

Other polls show a lower “undecided” number, with one or the other slightly ahead.

But it is clear this race will go down to the wire, and voter turnout will be the deciding factor.

I watched the debate on KUTV Channel 2, and both candidates had ads running just before the 6 p.m. start time – smart placement.

If McAdams said it once, he likely said it a dozen times: Words don’t matter, results do. And Love votes lockstep with President Donald Trump (not well-liked in the 4th District) and congressional Republicans – 97.5 percent of the time.

Love knew this line of attack was coming, and she cited the same rating service to say that she voted with Democrats more than 70 percent of the time.

She challenged McAdams to cite if he would have voted differently than her on abortion, pay raise for military or several other items.

He sidestepped that query – as she sidestepped several of his charges.

Things got testy on the issue of immigration.

Love is the daughter of immigrants, and she has differed with Trump and GOP congressional leaders on several immigration issues.

When McAdams attempted to paint her as doing nothing on immigration – again saying words mean little without action – she cited a number of votes and stands where she differed with Republican colleagues and Trump.

Bottom line, however, is that the GOP immigration package did fail to pass.

Love got in a few jabs about Nancy Pelosi and even Hillary Clinton – two Democratic women not liked in Utah.

She said if McAdams beats her, it ensures that Democrats will take control of the House.

Well, that’s likely to happen even if Love wins another term.

And McAdams countered that “Mia has changed,” she may have gone back to D.C. with good intentions, but she’s been swept up into the partisan stalemate and has become just another guaranteed GOP vote.

McAdams, said Love, is not “honest” with voters – over Salt Lake County taxes, over the mismanaged development of the old Cottonwood Mall, over just about everything.

“Honesty and integrity still mean something,” said Love – clearly meaning McAdams lacks in both.

She said she doesn’t take any orders, not from Trump nor GOP congressional leaders – works only for 4th District constituents.

“Outcomes matter,” said McAdams. And words mean little “unless we see action.”

Love has been missing in action, said McAdams, rarely holding “open” town hall meetings where anyone can attend, hiding behind selected guests. He promised to be accessible and responsive.

In the final moments of the debate, Love dropped a nugget of news timed perfectly so that McAdams wouldn’t have a chance to respond. She said an analyst at the Federal Election Commission had called her earlier in the day to say they were siding with her in the controversy arising from the claim that she improperly raised more than $1 million in campaign funds for a primary election that never happened. That claim is misleading as the FEC has not yet considered the formal campaign finance complaint brought by the left-leaning Alliance For a Better Utah. That complaint has yet to be investigated and ruled on. The final decision from the FEC will likely come sometime after November’s election.

This is probably the only real debate in the 4th District. There are some “joint appearances” – where both can speak. But not challenge each other or have any real give and take.

This article originally appeared in Utah Policy. Read it in its entirety here.

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