OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A former business executive trying to unseat six-term Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop called on voters Tuesday during a debate to end Bishop’s tenure in Congress because of his role in last year’s government shutdown and inaction in Congress.
“We’ve had 12 years of Rep. Bishop in the House. It’s time to give this guardian of gridlock a well-deserved retirement and put somebody in there who has actually had to deliver results,” said Donna McAleer, a Democrat.
Bishop blamed the U.S. Senate for the gridlock and vowed to continue pushing back against overreaching federal officials who think they know what’s best for Utah.
“I’m not flashy. I’m not a show horse,” Bishop said. “I’m a workhorse that actually tries to accomplish things and not consolidate power, but move that power back to local and state governments so you have more options, choices and control in your life.”
Bishop and McAleer squared off on several topics including public lands, immigration and gun laws during the hour-long debate at Weber State University.
It was put on by the newly-formed Utah Debate Commission, a coalition of educators, news media and former politicians formed this year to ensure there are debates each election cycle for statewide and federal offices. The organization is hosting debates during the next three weeks for the state’s four U.S. House races and state attorney general.
The Bishop-vs.-McAleer matchup in Utah’s 1st Congressional District is a rematch from 2012, when the congressman won by 46 percentage points. The district includes the northernmost parts of Utah, including Ogden and Logan.
The two were asked about one of the key issues in the race: the tug-of-war over protecting public lands and opening some of them up for oil and gas development. Federal lands make up about two-thirds of the state’s land.
Bishop said Utah leaders should able to decide what they can do on federally controlled lands — not federal bureaucrats who don’t know the state or the region. He also said energy development on federal lands is key to growing the economy.
“Anybody who says Utahns are not competent to make those decisions is simply whistling in the dark,” Bishop said.
McAleer disagreed with her opponent, saying Utah’s efforts to take over federal land and sue the federal government for control are misguided. She highlighted the fact that Utah’s natural beauty is a major driver of tourism to the state. McAleer reminded Bishop that the federal lands in Utah don’t belong exclusively to Utah residents.
“They are owned by people in Des Moines, Iowa, in Boston, Massachusetts, in Tallahassee, Florida,” McAleer said. “They are owned by the 314 million Americans.”
On immigration, Bishop reiterated his longstanding position that there should be no immigration reform until the border is secured. He highlighted the need to giver border agents more access to patrol on public lands.
McAleer said border security is important, but so is finding a way to deal with immigrants here illegally and provide a path to citizenship to immigrants who want to become citizens.
The two offered starkly different views on gun control.
McAleer noted that she used many weapons during her military career but said there should be a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. “If you want to shoot these things, join the military and be trained on them,” she said.
Bishop said no new laws are needed to control guns, saying the focus should be on illegal guns that people get their hands on. “Society is not more secure with more restrictive gun laws,” Bishop said.