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At their first debate Thursday, it was hard to distinguish the Democrat from the Republican in the 2nd Congressional District contest.

Jay Seegmiller and Chris Stewart agreed that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or when a mother's life or health is in danger.

They agreed there is a need for bipartisanship in Congress. They were in sync that the only way to fix the economy was to create jobs. They both tout the need for a balanced budget amendment. They agreed that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.

Yes, this was supposed to be a debate between the two candidates, but moderator Richard Piatt of KSL struggled to draw out distinctions between the two agreeable rivals: Stewart the Republican and Seegmiller the Democrat. The closest either came to taking a jab at the other was at the very end of the session when Seegmiller labeled Stewart a "Washington D.C. lobbyist" — a point the Republican rejected.

Up until that point, the differences appeared to be subtle and the edges soft.

When Piatt asked about health care reform, Stewart spoke favorably about GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's positions on Medicare, which includes preserving Medicare for those 55 and older while creating a Medicare payment averaging $11,000 per year when fully phased in. "A market-driven approach is good for everyone," Stewart said.

But Seegmiller said he opposed a voucher system for Medicare and said it would leave some low-income seniors unable to keep up with rising health care costs.

Both also expressed some concerns with President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, with Stewart saying he supported repeal although he understood there were parts of it that people liked.

Seegmiller, however, said "that train has already left the station" and said the act should be "revamped" — not repealed.

The debate, which will air Sunday at 9 a.m. on KSL Channel 5, also tackled the economy, with Seegmiller broadly outlining his "3-2-1 Plan" that he says would create 3 million jobs by repatriating $2 trillion in corporate money currently housed in overseas banks by offering companies tax incentives to bring the money back to the U.S. The one, he said, stands for one economic recovery.

Stewart didn't rebut the plan, but said government shouldn't be creating jobs, that the economic recovery is tied to the private sector's ability to create jobs with minimal government interference.

Stewart also was questioned about any fallout from his messy convention fight in April when he was charged with planting a candidate in the race to discredit four other Republicans who had allegedly formed the "Anybody But Chris" group to prevent him from securing the nomination.

Four candidates filed a Federal Election Commission complaint charging Stewart's campaign with conspiring with Eureka Mayor Milton Hanks to gain unfair advantage in the nomination race.

Stewart said that investigation "is seemingly going nowhere" but did think there are "a few Democrats" who want it to go somewhere "because they hope to raise money."

Piatt also probed the candidates' willingness to compromise — noting public frustration with congressional gridlock and he asked Stewart pointedly if he planned to work across the aisle or would just go to Washington to be obstructionist.

"I'm in the mood to fix problems," he said. "There are certain principles we adhere to, but we need to reach across the aisle."

Seegmiller said in his two sessions in the Utah Legislature, he worked on "principled compromise" and said he'd bring that same attitude to Washington.

"I think we need more partnership and less partisanship," Seegmiller said.

Twitter: @davemontero —

Candidate info from Project Vote Smart

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