LOGAN, Utah — The three candidates stood on the stage clamoring to get their views across.
Democratic candidate Lee Castillo admitted he was a little nervous in a statewide televised debate, but he went after incumbent Republican Congressman Rob Bishop on every issue he could. Eric Eliason, on stage representing the United Utah Party, also criticized Bishop’s record, but also sought to portray himself as an alternative to those frustrated by Republicans and Democrats.
“There’s 47% of people who are in-between. It’s the biggest group. Yet there’s no one out representing them,” Eliason told reporters afterward.
Bishop took jabs at Congress itself while defending his record as Utah’s longest-serving representative in the House.
“I’m the only Republican that’s in this race. I’m the only conservative,” he said, in the only debate between the three candidates at Utah State University on Wednesday.
The three debated gun control (with Castillo and Eliason saying they favored background checks), tax policy and tariffs (all three said they were not fans of tariffs, but Bishop said President Trump’s moves did spur re-negotiations with trade partners that were better).
On climate change, Bishop acknowledged “climate change is real.” But he said there were multiple reasons for it. His opponents pounced.
“It’s about time this congressman says he’s looking to do something besides oil and gas,” Castillo told the crowd. “Because he’s voted in the past against anything green.”
Criticizing his record on public lands, both Castillo and Eliason suggested Bishop was more loyal to energy interests. It appeared to be one of the only times he was visibly upset as he insisted he voted his conscience.
“I stand for principles. I stand for something. And that’s how I vote. I don’t care who gives me money,” Bishop said. “To say otherwise is unfair and untrue.”
A new poll by the Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics finds Bishop with a commanding lead over his opponents. But Castillo said he was not giving up and believed a wave of new voters in the mid-terms would help him.
“It’s gonna be a game changer,” he said. “I am excited for the future.”
Eliason, who has self-funded his campaign, said he was proud he has taken no money from PACs or corporations as he sought to unseat Bishop. He vowed to aggressively campaign across the 1st Congressional District in the final three weeks to Election Day.
Bishop asked voters for one last term. He said he’s proud of his accomplishments and his district has been good to him.
“I am going to term limit myself by saying this is my last term,” he said. “I hope I do it one last time.”
Watch the debate here: