Mia Love and Ben McAdams spar in their only debate as new poll shows the race is tied

Posted at 8:24 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 23:34:51-04

SANDY, Utah -- In a feisty debate, Republican Congresswoman Mia Love and her Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, pressed each other on issues and their records.

Rep. Mia Love and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams debate at Salt Lake Community College on Oct. 15, 2018. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

Before a standing-room only crowd at Salt Lake Community College on Monday, the two held their first and only debate ahead of Election Day. They discussed education, the national debt and tax cuts, healthcare and air quality.

"Words are one thing, actions are another," McAdams said at one point during the debate, criticizing Love.

"Let’s talk about the truth and if you want to debate policy? Let’s do that," Love replied at another point.

On immigration, Love called family separation at the border "horrific" and "absolutely un-American." She said she would continue to push for comprehensive immigration bills.

"I’m going to continue to work for that because it’s something that’s not just incredibly important, but personal to me," she told the audience.

"Right when that vote was about to happen, Rep. Love withdrew her support and that discharge petition failed," McAdams told the moderator.

"Not true," Love replied.

While the two did appear to find some agreement on tariffs, they spent the bulk of the hour arguing over partisanship. Love sought to tie McAdams to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and McAdams tried to tie her to President Trump.

"This is somebody who has voted 97 percent of the time with partisan interests and doing harm to people in Utah," he said to the crowd.

"He can’t even match the bill numbers with what we’ve talked about," Love said.

"Sure I can!" he said.

"No, you cannot match the bill numbers," she replied. "We’ve talked about this!"

The 4th Congressional District race is the most competitive in Republican-dominated Utah. A Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll posted on Monday afternoon showed the race was a virtual tie with Love and McAdams getting 46% support among voters in that district with 8% undecided.

Internal polling by each campaign has showed a close race and TV airwaves have been flooded with ads for both candidates.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams speaks to reporters after the 4th Congressional District debate. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

"It’s very encouraging," McAdams told reporters after the debate. "People are responding to our message. They want a Washington that’s bipartisan, that works across the aisle."

Love disputed the numbers.

"We’re always at least five points ahead of the Salt Lake Tribune," she told reporters. "I go with our polls."

Just as the debate was to begin, Love's campaign put out a statement that the Federal Elections Commission told her she was legally allowed to raise primary-election contributions and retain those. Love had raised about $1 million for a primary election she never faced, which brought criticism from McAdams. The liberal think tank Alliance for a Better Utah filed a complaint with the FEC.

Rep. Mia Love speaks to reporters following the 4th Congressional District Debate. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

"There was a coordination with national Democratic Party and Nancy Pelosi and Mayor McAdams to try and smear our campaign," she told reporters, demanding McAdams apologize to her.

In response, Alliance for a Better Utah called on Love to offer proof.

"A conversation with an FEC staffer as related in a statement from the Love campaign is not an official clearance from the Federal Election Commission," ABU's Chase Thomas said in an emailed statement. "Alliance for a Better Utah has submitted an official complaint to the FEC, which was just confirmed as received by the Commission. Once we receive an official response, we will release that to the public. If the FEC does say she could keep that money, we will accept that official ruling."

McAdams questioned if the FEC had truly weighed in.

"This isn’t resolved from a call from an unnamed attorney in a press release from the Love campaign," he said.

Watch the entire debate here: