Throughout October, candidates for Utah’s congressional delegation, four house seats and one senate seat, debated at events sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission, a non-partisan group dedicated to getting candidates on stage to showcase themselves and their ideas to voters.
Sen. Mike Lee (R) and independent challenger Evan McMullin, running for the U.S. Senate seat, appeared at Utah Valley University on Oct. 17. There was no Democratic representative as the Utah Democratic Party endorsed McMullin rather than fielding their own candidate.
As part of The Globe’s 2022 midterm election coverage, views from both candidates about topics most important to Salt Lake Community College students are compiled below. Topics include inflation, abortion and the Great Salt Lake.
Current levels of inflation
Lee pointed to federal spending under President Joe Biden’s administration for current levels of inflation.
“As the famed Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman explained: In the United States of America, there is only one cause of inflation, excessive spending by Congress,” Lee said.
McMullin agreed with Lee, but said elected representatives need to “stand up both to Republicans and Democrats who are guilty of reckless spending.” McMullin added that the previous administration was guilty of the same, and that the nation’s debt has increased threefold since Lee took office in 2010.
“I know that the only time we’ve ever gotten our fiscal house in order is when Republicans and Democrats have worked together,” McMullin said. “Senator Lee refuses to do that, and those are his broken politics.”
Lee defended his position by saying he has stood against his party to oppose large amounts of spending, and that he will continue to do so.
How are you thinking about the issue of abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade?
McMullin answered that he is pro-life, but said he “opposes the extremes on both sides” and that the issue is unnecessarily dividing the country.
He said increasing access to contraception and creating greater support for families are constructive steps to reducing the national abortion rate, as opposed to extreme abortion bills.
McMullin then attacked Lee for supporting such bills, to which Lee responded by shaking his head in disagreement. Both candidates have said they would oppose a national abortion ban like the one U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proposed earlier this year.
“I’m thrilled with the Dobbs decision,” Lee said of the ruling that overturned Roe and handed abortion control back to the states. “Roe v. Wade was a legal fiction.”
The issue of abortion, Lee added, should be decided at the state level. Lee also took the opportunity to attack his opponent for opposing Utah’s trigger law, which bans all abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to protect the mother’s health.
“It’s within the states we can achieve the most consensus and protect the most babies,” Lee said.
What will you do to help the Great Salt Lake survive?
The Great Salt Lake is an environmental, economic and health issue, McMullin answered.
McMullin said he would work to return federal funds to improve water infrastructure, and that Utah needs to improve water conservation practices. He then criticized Lee for voting against legislation that addressed western water infrastructure.
Lee called water storage infrastructure an “important part of the puzzle” to solving the problem of the lake, and noted the need of permitting reform. He also defended his decision to vote against the legislation that McMullin pointed out.
“[The infrastructure bill] spent over a trillion dollars more than we had on all sorts of things that are not appropriate,” Lee said.
McMullin reiterated that “politics in America are broken” due to “party bosses” and political extremes having too much influence within the Republican and Democratic parties.
He also called out interest groups for shifting representative accountability away from constituents, and accused Lee’s campaign of being one such example.
“It feels as though we’re coming apart now because of the broken politics you hear from my opponent,” McMullin said.
Lee focused his remarks on downplaying McMullin’s appeal during this year’s midterms in the face of inflation and oversees conflicts.
“Perhaps in that moment,” Lee said of an America not facing those challenges, “seriously entertaining the idea of supporting of an opportunistic gadfly supported by the Democratic Party might make interesting dinner conversation.”
More information about both candidates, including full platforms, can be found on their respective websites: Sen. Mike Lee, Evan McMullin. The full debate can be found on the Utah Debate Commission’s YouTube channel.