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Republican candidates for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District debate health care, immigration and more

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Posted at 9:49 PM, Jul 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-28 23:49:07-04

PROVO, Utah -- The Republican candidates for the congressional spot left open by Jason Chaffetz went head-to-head in another debate Friday night.

The candidates include current Provo Mayor John Curtis, relative political newcomer Tanner Ainge and former legislator Chris Herrod.

"This debate is going to set the stage," said Jason Perry, Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, one of the hosts of the debate.

While all Republican, he said each candidate represented the moderate to the conservative end of the party.

"These candidates are very different," he said. "We know some of them better than we know others, but we really don't know where they stand on the issues."

Topics talked about included health care, immigration, foreign policy and public lands.

The three men seemed to generally agree on how to handle some issues.

"One solution is to increase the amount that people are allowed to contribute to health savings accounts," suggested Ainge, when it came to health care.

Herrod said, "What we need to do is come back to the free market."

"I'm optimistic that not only can we repeal Obamacare, but we can replace it," Curtis said.

When it came to immigration, Herrod said, "I absolutely support President Trump on his plan to build a wall."

"Congress just appropriated 1.6 billion dollars to secure our borders," Curtis said, during his turn to talk immigration. "That is the first step we need to do."

Among the things Ainge suggested, he said, "We need a strong legal immigration program."

Another topic included public lands, specifically the Bears Ears National Monument designation.

"Local control is always best," Curtis asserted.

"Congress does not do a very good job managing those lands 2,200 miles away," Herrod said.

"I've spent time up with voters in San Juan County, and it completely affects their way of life," Ainge said.

While they kept the conversation cordial, the candidates did eventually take a few jabs at each other before the debate wrapped up.

Perry said what happened on stage could make a difference in the primary.

"The most interesting thing right now is that 41 percent of Utahns in the Third District still don't know who they are going to vote for," Perry said. "This is a very important night, because you could make up a lot of ground right there. You could even win an election with that kind of gain."

The Republican primary is two weeks away. The winner will go on to face Dr. Kathie Allen, the candidate who took the primary spot for the Democratic Party.