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Feisty first debate between Mia Love and Doug Owens

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Posted at 4:55 PM, May 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-21 00:48:31-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- It was a feisty debate as the two major party candidates for Utah's Fourth Congressional District faced off for the first time.

Democrat Doug Owens, viewed as the underdog in the race, immediately took jabs at Republican Mia Love, calling her views "extremist."

"Mia Love is driven by a national Tea Party agenda," Owens told an audience of about 150 at the Utah Taxpayers Association conference on Tuesday. "I'm driven by local concerns."

Owens said Love supported the government shutdown last year, and wants to shut down the U.S. Department of Education. Love fired back at Owens, at one point sarcastically saying: "I'm absolutely flattered that you would bring my name up so much and that you're paying so much attention to me!"

"There's not one thing you said that's true," she told him. "I'm interested in tackling problems, not people."

About the only thing the two candidates agreed on was that corporate tax rates are too high. Love said she wanted Obamacare defunded, Owens said he supported tweaking it in a bipartisan effort.

Love said she wants the federal government to hand over its land to the state of Utah, Owens said he supported the lands staying in federal hands. She also said she supported a tax code "that could fit in a three-ring binder."

Several times, Love would utter "no," or "wrong," as Owens made claims against her. The Democratic candidate tried to portray himself as a moderate, calling Love an "ideologue." Love said she favored local solutions to problems, not Washington D.C. bureaucracy.

"I'm going to remain above board," she told reporters after the debate. "I'm going to make sure that I'm positive throughout this whole thing because I believe our best days are to come."

Owens said he was not planning to portray his Republican opponent as an extremist.

"I don't intend to portray her," he said. "I intend to point to the facts and I think they portray her, absolutely."

The Fourth Congressional District race could become the most hotly contested political contest. Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah's lone Democrat in congress, is not seeking re-election.

Doug Owens is the son of former Democratic congressman Wayne Owens. Love is the former mayor of Saratoga Springs.