CEDAR CITY -- The topics debated between Congressman Chris Stewart and Utah State Senator Luz Robles were as diverse as the district each is seeking to represent.
Both candidates left the hour-long televised debate here at Southern Utah University on Thursday feeling confident about their chances for victory in November.
"This is an opportunity to put our platform out there and make sure people know where we stand on issues," Robles, the democratic candidate in the race, told FOX 13 after the debate. "I think this really made it happen."
Stewart, the incumbent Republican, believes he still has the edge.
"Ultimately we'll see on Election Day, won't we?" he said. "I mean, a lot of it comes down to what people believe, do they agree with me on some of those issues."
The Second Congressional District, one of the largest in the nation, is the largest district in Utah. It stretches from Davis County south to Washington County, with a diverse mix of urban and rural constituents. Both candidates pledged to listen to each one's unique needs.
During the debate, there was plenty the two agreed on. They emphasized local control and input on Common Core (Stewart took note of their agreement). Robles suggested a federal-state partnership when it came to wild horse management while Stewart would like to see the state take responsibility.
They differed greatly on issues like same-sex marriage. Robles called it "an issue of equality," while Stewart emphasized his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman and said Utah spoke at the ballot box.
"These are families we are talking about," Robles told him. "Human beings and children."
The two disagreed on immigration. Stewart opposed a path to citizenship.
"A nation has to be able to protect its sovereignty," he said, urging stricter border controls.
Robles blamed congress for inaction, declaring: "it's really their incompetence and it's sad."
The two also differed on whether to raise taxes or cut spending to deal with the federal deficit. Stewart insisted good policies could "grow the economy," while Robles again lashed out at congress for not balancing the budget.
The two candidates were exceedingly polite to each other. There was a lighthearted exchange between them when the moderator told each candidate to ask a question of the other. Stewart remarked about Robles' pregnancy, and asked: "Boy or girl?"
"It's a girl," she said, smiling.
Robles asked his opinion on the role of the federal government, which Stewart declined to answer in a short time span as the moderator moved on to other topics.
Outside the auditorium, third party candidates protested their exclusion from the debate. Constitution Party candidate Shaun McCausland put a piece of duct tape over his mouth and held a sign declaring that he had been "shut out."
The Utah Debate Commission set a 10-percent threshold for participation in the debate. FOX 13 is a member of that commission, providing resources to televise the debates.
The next scheduled debate is between Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and his Democratic challenger, Charles Stormont. The debate is slated for Oct. 1 at Brigham Young University. FOX 13 will broadcast the debate live on TV and at fox13now.com.