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SALT LAKE CITY — Local business leaders heard from 4th District congressional candidates Mia Love and Doug Owens at the Salt Lake Chamber Thursday, but only after the format was changed so Love wouldn't have to share the stage with Owens.
"We were fortunate they were at least in the same building this morning," said chamber spokesman Justin Jones. "It would have been more beneficial for both candidates to sit together in a room and discuss pertinent issues."
But Jones said Love would not agree to the chamber's usual format for giving members of the business community an opportunity to hear candidates answer questions on taxes, transportation, health care, immigration and other issues.
Love's campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said the GOP candidate wanted her appearance to be separate from Owens, a Democrat, so the chamber "could just hear the candidates and not necessarily the political posturing that goes on."
Owens said voters "deserve to see their candidates side-by-side, talking about the issues" — a skill he said is needed in Congress. "Part of the dysfunction in Washington is that people don't talk to each other."
Love and Owens, who are competing to replace retiring Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah's only Democrat in Congress, squared off in May before the Utah Taxpayers Association.
Part of the dysfunction in Washington is that people don't talk to each other.
That debate quickly turned confrontational, with Owens challenging what he called Love's "extreme views." The pair have not appeared together since, but both are expected to participate in the Utah Debate Commission's 4th District debate Oct. 14.
Love, a former Saratoga Springs mayor, nearly defeated Matheson in 2012 after receiving national attention as a candidate who would be the first black Republican woman in Congress.
Owens, an attorney and the son of Wayne Owens, the late former Utah congressman, has trailed Love in polling and fundraising, but he has called the race competitive.
Jones, who moderated the chamber debate, said the more than 50 business leaders who came to hear from the candidates "had a good discussion with them." Each candidate appeared before the group for about 30 minutes, he said.
"We led off with a question regarding the dysfunction in Washington," Jones said, asking "how they intended to work together."
The chamber does not endorse candidates, Jones said, but does bring in candidates in key races. Only the 4th District candidates were invited to appear this year, he said.