SALT LAKE CITY — Utah congressional candidate Mia Love and incumbent Jim Matheson clashed Wednesday over federal spending cuts during their first debate ahead of the November elections.
The two disagreed on a number of potential cuts to reduce the federal deficit during a televised debate outside KUTV studios.
Love has offered a proposal to slash federal programs that provide college loans, among other things. Matheson criticized Love for that plan, saying 75 percent of college students in Utah depend on government aid.
“I have yet to hear anyone — other than my opponent — advocate to get rid of student loans,” Matheson said.
Love countered that she wasn’t wedded to her deficit-reduction plan. She has said she’s still paying back college loans herself.
“Here we go again,” Love said of her opponent. “I put out a list to start the discussion. At least I showed courage.”
She added, “Limited government doesn’t mean that we cut everything.”
Pressed on specific federal spending cuts they support or oppose, Love and Matheson showed some differences.
Matheson said he would not cut Social Security or Medicare benefits or the central Utah water project. He said he supported a Pentagon plan for defense cuts.
Love said she would “reform” Social Security and Medicare and protect defense from any budget cuts. She said she didn’t have a position on the central Utah water project.
Matheson is serving his sixth term as Utah’s only Democrat in Congress. He chose to run in a new, more urban District 4 rather than his sprawling re-mapped District 2. The Utah Legislature redrew the congressional boundaries for the 2012 election.
Love is the mayor of Saratoga Springs and a darling of tea party Republicans who scored a coveted speaking slot at the GOP national convention.
She became Utah’s first black female mayor two years ago, and could become the first black Republican woman in Congress if she topples Matheson.