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Democrat Doug Owens took the offensive Thursday, accusing Republican Mia Love of wanting to eliminate student loans, education funding and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Love countered that Owens was launching personal attacks, demonstrating the types of division that plague Washington, going so far as to question whether she represents the values of her religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"To say I don't have LDS values because I'm Republican," Love said, "what does that say about others out there who are LDS and Republican?."
At the Utah Democratic Convention in April, Owens told a group of LDS Democrats: "I am a Democrat because I am LDS. I think the values line up very, very closely. I don't think Mia Love represents LDS values, frankly."
Owens, noting he, too, is a Mormon, said he wasn't questioning Love's religious values.
"What I was saying was, to me it's not a Utah value to have extreme views with no room for debate," Owens said after Thursday's showdown, "to shut down the government, to shut down the Department of Education, to close down opportunity for people with no access to higher education. … I don't think those are Utah values."
He said playing the religion card, like she did, is "a dodge by her to take the heat off her extreme values that don't fit Utah values."
"It's just more of the pretending you're being attacked personally when you don't want to talk about the issues," he said.
The two congressional candidates for Utah's 4th District met in their third and final debate before Tuesday's Election Day this one on KSL Radio's "Doug Wright Show." While early polls showed Love with a sizable advantage, the latest poll showed the lead had narrowed to 5 points, just outside the margin of error.
Owens noted that since the federal-government shutdown last October which he said Love heralded as a victory there has been no talk of solutions. His opponent, he said, would add to partisan rancor and push for eliminating federally subsidized student loans and the EPA and repealing, rather than fixing, Obamacare.
Love responded that she has not called for elimination of the federal student loans. She said the federal government has crowded out private lenders. She advocated more options to keep down rising tuition tabs. The GOP hopeful she said she wants to shrink the EPA, which has stymied economic growth in the Utah, and give states more control. She repeatedly accused her Democratic rival of misrepresenting her positions.
"Just because my opponent wants me to believe something doesn't make it so," she said. "I've never called to do away with student loans."
Said Owens: "It's [one] thing to change your position and another thing to deny having said what you said. Voters have not been getting straight answers when they've asked [for] them."
Owens has referred repeatedly to a direct-mail piece Love's campaign put out in 2012 when she narrowly lost to outgoing Rep. Jim Matheson in which she outlines "Mia's Initial Plan: to cut spending and get America back on track" for shrinking government. It includes eliminating federally subsidized student loans, slashing the EPA and trimming federal support for public education.
Love has since said the list was merely meant to start a discussion of possible cuts and didn't represent firm positions.
Owens said he learned from his father, the late Democratic Rep. Wayne Owens, to work across the aisle to get things done for Utah and vowed to do the same in Congress.
Love closed by saying that Tuesday's election was a referendum on President Barack Obama's "Goliath" government policies, "a choice between people and politics that will make us either slaves or make us free."