Utah Senate Candidates Agree On Policy, Diverge On Trump During Fiery Monday Debate

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Bronson Winslow Contributor
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  • Republican incumbent Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Democrat-backed independent Evan McMullin debated Monday night at Utah Valley University (UVU).
  • Though Lee and McMullin agree on many issues, the debate took a tense turn from the start as McMullin referenced Lee as a “bootlicker for Donald Trump” who only sees politics “through a prism of partisanship that is always Republican verse Democrats.” 
  • The candidates agreed on the need to reduce federal spending but disagreed about Jan. 6, health care and abortion.

Republican incumbent Utah Sen. Mike Lee and independent Evan McMullin debated Monday night at Utah Valley University (UVU) where each candidate offered their opinion on states’ rights, loan forgiveness, abortion, Jan. 6 and other current issues selected by UVU students, professors and journalists.

Lee and McMullin agreed on many policy issues during the debate such as cutting government spending and protecting states’ rights, but found themselves at odds over Donald Trump, health care and abortion. Lee is a veteran Republican Utah senator, and McMullin is an independent who claims to support neither party, though he is backed by the Democrats in place of a candidate of their own. (RELATED: Mike Lee Locked In Surprisingly Tight Senate Race With Evan McMullin)

“For you to talk about the importance of the Electoral College I think is rich. I think you know exactly how important it is, and I think you knew how important it was when you sought to urge the White House, that had lost an election, to find fake electors to overturn the will of the people,” McMullin said Monday. “Sen. Lee that was the most egregious betrayal of our nation’s Constitution in its history by a U.S. senator. I believe it will be your legacy.”

McMullin said Lee only sees politics “through a prism of partisanship that is always Republican versus Democrats.”

The debate moderator turned from first focusing on federal spending to ask each candidate if they believed Joe Biden was rightfully elected as the president of the United States. Lee agreed that he was rightfully elected as president but stated that he believed there were some voting issues that needed to be addressed, while McMullin threw shots at Lee.

Lee demanded an apology from McMullin for saying that he betrayed the nation, and told viewers that he does support the legitimacy of Biden. “Joe Biden is our president. He was chosen at the only election that matters, the election held by the Electoral College,” Lee said. “It was on that basis that I voted to certify the election results from the Electoral College. Joe Biden won that — now, as to whether there were errors as to whether some states might have conducted their elections better than others, there’s always room for debate and questions about that.”

Lee and McMullin began their debate by discussing the large federal spending that has recently driven up inflation.

“Stop excessive federal spending. Joe Biden over the last two years has had a rubber-stamped, Democratic-controlled Congress. They’ve done everything he’s asked them to do, and he’s basically asked them to print money. We brought in $4 trillion last year, we almost spent $7 [trillion]. We effectively printed $3 trillion dollars. That resulted in too many dollars chasing too few goods. That’s the very definition of inflation,” said Lee.

McMullin agreed with Lee “at least in rhetoric,” but believes we need to send independents to Washington to stop reckless spending on both sides of the aisle. “During your time in the U.S. Senate, when you were elected, the U.S. debt was about $13 trillion, Sen. Lee. Now it’s triple that. It’s well over $31 trillion. I think our difference is in approach. I know that the only time we’ve ever gotten our fiscal house in order is when Republicans and Democrats worked together. Sen. Lee refuses to do that and those are his broken politics,” McMullin said.

When asked about prescription drug prices, McMullin pointed to Lee’s special interest funding as a key reason prices are high. “We’ve counted it up, it’s well over $4 million. A lot of that is coming from special interest groups in Big Pharma who are paying you and putting money in your pockets. Sen. Lee, you’ve consistently voted against and introduced bills that prevent the taxpayer from freely negotiating in a market to lower prescription drug costs,” said McMullin.

Lee refuted this claim saying we need more competition and not prices set by the federal government. “Competition lowers prices and it brings up quality. What we need is competition, that’s why I’ve long supported allowing the importation of drugs from neighborly countries with regulatory systems that we can trust,” he said.

“I’m with Bernie Sanders on this one, ‘feeling the Bern’ drives the drug companies absolutely berserk,” Lee continued.

During their debate on abortion, each candidate described themselves as pro-life, yet took a different approach to how it should be regulated. McMullin believes contraception and education need to be more accessible for those most at risk for abortion, while Lee believes Roe v. Wade was a “legal fiction.”

“There is a more constructive way forward. It’s making contraception more available, doing more to support women, children and families and imparting the right values to our youth. That’s what we can do to lower the abortion rate in America,” said McMullin.

“Roe v. Wade was legal fiction cut out of a whole cloth from the imagination of a few Supreme Court Justices. I’m glad it’s been overturned, and this authority has finally been returned to the states where it belongs,” said Lee.

Lee continued to call out McMullin for previously supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade before he began running for Senate.

Monday night’s debate was the only debate between the two candidates ahead of the midterm election on Nov. 8.

A recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll placed the two candidates four points apart showing 41% for Lee and 37% for McMullin.

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