Democrats debate who will face Bishop in November

Jun 6 2012 - 6:13am

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WASHINGTON TERRACE -- When it comes to Ryan Combe and Donna McAleer, it's legacy versus diverse experience.

At least, that's how the candidates defined themselves in a debate Tuesday evening at the Weber County Library Pleasant Valley Branch, 5568 S. Adams Ave.

Combe and McAleer are vying to become the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District race, and they each made their case as to why they'd be ideal for taking down incumbent Congressman Rob Bishop, as well as what they'd want to do once in office.

"I was tired of seeing people get elected and get to Washington, D.C., and forget the people who elected them," Combe said.

He feels that congressmen like Bishop have lost touch with their communities and that, as his own family has been in Weber County for six generations, he knows his neighbors and what they care about.

"People can relate to me because I have legacy in this community. ... They have been around us," he said.

McAleer, on the other hand, comes from outside the state. She served in the U.S. Army in Germany before earning a business degree in Virginia, using it to lead the global division of a technology firm. She moved to Utah to try to compete in the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Now a published author and high school girls volleyball coach, she points to her diverse experiences as a good argument for her candidacy.

She can talk to voters in new ways -- for example, as a mother and veteran -- and show them the fruits of her endeavors, such as creating high-wage jobs at the firm or helping turn around a Utah nonprofit for the uninsured.

Combe pointed out that he has a resume, too, as a small-business owner and as someone who has also worked with nonprofits, as well as being someone people can relate to.

"That's where I have a huge advantage. Combe is a very recognizable name. That's half a battle right there," he said of reaching out to and winning voters in a heavily Republican state.

When a candidate can relate to people, it "throws parties out the window," he added.

Utahns' choice of a Democratic candidate is important, as they will be picking a team leader for other candidates in Northern Utah, Steve Olsen, chairman of the Weber County Democrats, said in an introduction before the debate.

In that regard, Combe points to his relationship to the community, about how his campaign has tried to register voters and hold weekly meetings to teach people about how to get their messages out.

McAleer retorted that her diverse experiences and background as a candidate reach people in new ways, with "the difference being, you have one candidate with proven results and another one who is running on style."

But the night also focused on what the two would do once they're in office.

Education was a big concern for audience members who posed questions to the candidates. While the two mostly agreed on the topic, they did diverge on performance-based pay, which has been somewhat controversial in the area.

Combe does not favor performance-based pay, as he feels it is not enough to address all of the factors that go into classroom performance.

But McAleer voiced her support for it, as she thinks Utah needs to do what it can to keep teachers from leaving for other states.

They also differed on the Utah Compact.

Combe doesn't support the immigration declaration on the grounds that he doesn't want to support any legislation that would break up families, whereas McAleer thinks it goes a long way to bringing people to the U.S. for legal employment.

The primary election is scheduled for June 26.

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