SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most closely watched political races in Utah this year is the 4th Congressional District. It's been filled with dueling attacks, contention and big money ads.
Thursday night, the two candidates vying for the spot — Rep. Jim Matheson and Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love — faced off in a live debate on KSL 5 News at 6:30 p.m.
"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed me in this race because I have taken positions that promote economic growth in the future," Matheson said.
"The reason why Mitt Romney supports me is because of my great record, my great fiscal policies as mayor," Love told viewers.
My opponent thinks we should get rid of all college loans, when 75 percent of all college students in Utah take advantage of those student loans.
–Rep. Jim Matheson
Theirs is one of the most contentious races, not only in Utah but also in the country. A lot of outside money is being spent on negative ads. We asked both candidates if they felt any responsibility to keep things civil.
"I think voters want to look at the issues," Matheson said. "Campaigns and politics are so overwhelmed sometimes by simple rhetoric, and it really is more important to talk about the issues of the day."
My opponent is going out and encouraging students to incur more debt. I'm going out and opening up so that they have more options.
–Mayor Mia Love
"If we know we have set an example of allowing other people to come in and talk about these races in a way that's inappropriate, putting out false information, we should be asking them to remove that false information," Love said.
The candidates said they disagree on several key issues.
"My opponent thinks we should get rid of all college loans, when 75 percent of all college students in Utah take advantage of those student loans," Matheson said.
"I would say definitely that I support Mitt Romney," Love said. "I believe Mitt Romey is going to help our economy back on its feet. Jim Matheson supports Barack Obama."
The debate also included questions from non-partisan, nonprofit foundations. Steve Kroes, president of the Utah Foundation, asked, "What are your thoughts, in light of all the fiscal difficulties faced by the federal government right now, on continuing to provide this kind of aid to college students?"
"This is how you afford college. You afford college by getting student aid, whether it's loans, grants, work study," Matheson answered.
"My opponent is going out and encouraging students to incur more debt," Love said. "I'm going out and opening up so that they have more options."
KSL viewers participated in the debate through Facebook and Twitter. Many people said they wanted to hear fewer attacks and more direct answers from the candidates. But the back-and-forth banter made it difficult to nail down definitive answers from both Love and Matheson on whether they would consider cuts to Medicare and Social Security.
"We shouldn't do across-the-board cuts," Matheson said. "We should actually look at ways to make the program sustainable over the future through reform."
"We have to reform them, and I would say again: Obamacare is what cut $700 billion out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare," Love said.
Certainly, there is a lot at stake for both candidates. Matheson and Love have two more debates, including one with KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright on Oct. 2.