Utah Rep. Owens and McDonald agree on little in a single debate

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah (AP) — U.S. Representative Burgess Owens and Democratic challenger Darlene McDonald did not agree on any of the issues discussed Friday in their only debate before the midterm elections, each broadly echoing the points their party’s discussion board on inflation, abortion and infrastructure spending. .

In an untelevised debate in the basement of a suburban real estate office with an audience of only campaign staff and half a dozen reporters, the Utah Republican accused Democrats and President Joe Biden for importing fentanyl across the US-Mexico border, racial division and inflation. . Owens accused Democrats of promoting critical race theory – an academic framework that connects the country’s history, including the legacy of slavery, to contemporary racism – and said it is destroying the social fabric of the country. .

“One thing the Biden administration has accomplished is it’s given us a common goal again,” added Owens, one of two black Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. “We now share what is called misery, as a people.”

McDonald, who is also black, countered that Owens was spreading lies to stoke fear – both about the nature of the protests against police brutality and the idea that critical race theory was taught in K schools. -12.

“What he’s trying to do is tell his base that we’re teaching your kids something that we’re not teaching them in school,” she said.

The Utah State Board of Education said critical race theory has never been taught in schools.

Owens blamed today’s Democrats and the institutions that backed them for fracturing people’s unifying values ​​such as love for God, sport and country.

The “left-leaning Democratic Supreme Court” has removed God from schools and professional sports team owners have pushed a “woke agenda”, he said.

When McDonald attacked Owens for voting against certifying the vote in Pennsylvania after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Owens responded by questioning why she and other Democrats weren’t equally outraged by the protests. that swept the country in 2020 after Minneapolis police. killed George Floyd.

The us versus them partisanship reflects a dynamic that has grown in importance as gerrymandering has become more common in the United States. Only 30 of the 435 congressional districts would have been won or lost by 5% in 2020, meaning most Americans today live in congressional districts that heavily favor one party or the other.

Utah’s 4th congressional district is one such district. Unlike in previous elections, when the Salt Lake City suburban seat swapped hands, Owens is heavily favored for re-election next month.

Former President Donald Trump won the district by nine percentage points in 2020. He would have won by 26 percentage points under his new limits approved by the Republican-controlled State House.

“You have someone in Congress who won’t even bother to return your phone call or your email,” said McDonald, seated next to Owens, who declined to answer a question about redistricting. “You have to make sure you have real representation and that voters choose their representatives, not representatives who choose their voters.”

Although both candidates in their closing remarks nodded to come together and transcend polarization, their openings were a far cry from past debates. Two years ago, then-U.S. Representative Ben McAdams, a Democrat, pointed to votes he took against his own party. Owens said he advocates reforming — not repealing — the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s a war,” Owens said Friday night. “It’s a war on our middle class. It’s a war on our energy. It’s a war on our children – again (critical race theory) teaches them to go in a different direction.”

A debate between the two almost didn’t happen after Owens pulled out of a televised event hosted by the Utah Debate Commission due to what he said were complaints about the moderator. Friday night’s debate, plagued by interruptions and technical difficulties, was streamed on YouTube and Facebook, where only a few hundred people watched.


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