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Bridgewater, Lee shine in last debate prior to primary election

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 4 2015 8:43 a.m. MDT

BOUNTIFUL — In their last debate prior to Tuesday's primary election, Republican U.S. Senate candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee gave it their best shot Saturday afternoon.

Almost 200 people packed the Bountiful City Council chambers for the two-hour event.

Moderating the debate was Ben Horsley, former Davis County Republican Party chairman. He pitched myriad issues for the two opponents to discuss, including states' rights, health care, free enterprise, the Constitution, gays in the military and school vouchers.

Afterward, when asked who won the debate, Horsley said, "I think the people who showed up today are the real winners. I thought both candidates did an excellent job in presenting their philosophies, approaches and goals as leaders."

Nancy Scott, 72, of Centerville, said the event helped her decide who to vote for on Tuesday but added, "They are both excellent men, and either one of them will represent us very well."

Lee described his philosophy as less federal control, more states' rights and more attention to the Constitution. "A couple hundred years ago, we were subject to another national government that was too big, too expensive, regulated us too much and didn't respect our local laws and property — and so we developed our own country," he said. "It was never supposed to be a government that had the power to be our doctor, our health care provider, our hospital, our bank."

Bridgewater said he believes the private business sector is under attack by the Obama administration — and this goes against the Constitution. The free enterprise system is what makes America great — where "there is limited government, contracts can be protected, the free market can thrive, and where private property is part of the objective to benefit all Americans," he said.

When asked what they would do if Congress attached a repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell," policy onto a military funding bill, both Bridgewater and Lee said they would vote against the bill.

Bridgewater said wartime isn't a good time to be messing with military policy. "Men and women's lives are on the line ... while politicians are trying to manipulate social policy in the military," he said.

Lee said he would call Congress' bluff. "Congress is never going to refuse to fund the military," he said, adding, "The policy has worked well, and I see no need to change it."

"Don't ask, don't tell" is a policy restricting the U.S. military from outing gays and barring openly gay individuals from military service.

When asked if Washington, D.C., should get rid of its school voucher program, both candidates said no.

Lee said while Obama's children attend a costly private school, low- and middle-income kids don't have that same opportunity. "This is just an example of how liberal politics will tell us they're trying to eliminate class distinctions when, in fact, they are perpetuating them," he said.

Bridgewater said vouchers are good at putting "positive pressure" on the system in order to gain improvements from public education.

As a short break during the debate, Horsley lobbed two quickie questions passed on from Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah: Would the two potential politicians watch the World Cup soccer finals, and who is their favorite baseball team?

Both Bridgewater and Lee said they don't have the patience for soccer. "It's too slow," Lee said. Bridgewater said, "I would just watch the highlights."

Bridgewater likes the Houston Astros, while Lee likes the Baltimore Orioles.

The event was hosted by Bishop, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Horsley, who is running against Jim Nielson for the District 19 seat in the Utah House of Representatives.

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