Rep. Chris Stewart faces Luz Robles in debate

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Democratic state senator challenging U.S. Republican Rep. Chris Stewart says the lack of action on immigration shows Congress isn't doing its job.

"It's really their incompetency, and it's sad," said Sen. Luz Robles. "We've tried the Band-Aid solutions ... it's not working."

At a debate Thursday in Cedar City, Robles argued the country needs a comprehensive set of reforms. Stewart said the solution begins with border security.

Stewart argued local control should prevail over federal on several issues, saying the state's ban on gay marriage should remain in place and Utah could do a better job at managing the state's public lands. "Will we protect our freedoms from a federal government that doesn't want to help us but that many times wants to rule over us?" he said.

Robles, by contrast, said the federal government has an important role and she supports same-sex marriage.

The two also took on Common Core education standards, the deficit and renewable energy during the hour-long televised debate at Southern Utah University.

Robles, an immigrant who came to the U.S. 18 years ago, touted her experience as a state lawmaker and said she would represent women, minorities and the working class.

Stewart, meanwhile, said Washington needs his military experience and business acumen.

Stewart is an author and former Air Force pilot who was elected to represent Utah's 2nd Congressional District in 2012. Robles works as a vice president at Zions Bank and was voted into the Legislature in 2008.

They are vying to represent the 2nd Congressional District, which covers a large portion of the state, including most of Salt Lake City west to the Nevada border and south to the Arizona border. It includes heavily Republican areas with spots that lean heavily Democratic.

In 2012, Stewart captured the district with 62 percent of the vote, defeating Democrat Jay Seegmiller.

In his bid for a second term this year, Stewart has about 10 times as much campaign cash as Robles, according to the most recent fundraising reports. From early April through the end of June, Stewart raised $118,000 and spent about $109,000, according to Federal Election Commission records. That leaves him with about $215,000 to spend.

Robles' most recent reports show she raised about $11,000 in the most recent quarter and spent another $9,500. That leaves her with about $20,000 on hand.

Besides Stewart and Robles, several third-party candidates are running for the seat: Constitution Party candidate Shaun McCausland; Independent American candidate Wayne Hill; and unaffiliated candidate Bill Barron.

Thursday's debate is the second put on by the Utah Debate Commission, which was formed earlier this year. The commission, a coalition of educators, news media and former politicians, working to guarantee there are debates every election year in races for statewide and federal offices.

Tuesday's debate between U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Democrat Donna McAleer marked the commission's first debate. During the next three weeks, additional debates will be held for candidates running in Utah's two other congressional districts and state attorney general.

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