Democratic Congressman Wayne Owens says he not only brings "political diversity but political effectiveness" to Utah's congressional delegation and has done countless things as a congressman to build Utah.
But Genevieve Atwood, the Republican challenger in the race for his 2nd Congressional District seat, said Saturday it is time for Owens to step aside and let her serve to meet the "public's best interest."She said she is a "conservative on money issues and I am caring on environment and social issues. I think that represents mainstream Utah. And I think that is why you should vote for me," she told about 75 people attending a 11/2-hour debate in Magna.
The two candidates hit a variety of topics during the debate, sponsored by the Magna Times.
Owens and Atwood agreed that the U.S. budget defict is the major problem facing the country, but they shared widespread differences on how it can be solved and who is to blame.
Atwood, a geologist, a former state legislator and state agency head, said she believes the country's finances are in complete disarray.
"My pitch to you is that Wayne is part of the problem. It isn't Wayne alone who has created the problem nor that he alone could solve it. But our country has been dominated by Democratic leadership for 50 of the past 53 years. And our country is in deep trouble on finances. A country or a family or a state that consistently spends more than it brings in year after year after year ends up in poverty, ends up in financial ruin. It also hurts us emotionally and hurts us morally," Atwood said.
She said she doesn't blame the Democrats entirely "for getting us in the pickle we're in," but she said it is the House of Representatives' job to "put forth a plan for the country's budget."
Atwood said when people want to see responsible fiscal change they shouldn't vote to send back to Washington those have been part of the problem.
"The big difference between Wayne and me is the money approach," she said.
Atwood said Owens can't say he has been effective and powerful and has been instrumental in bringing about needed fiscal and other changes when he has "voted 96 percent of the time with the Democrats."
Owens, the incumbent three-term congressman, said he agrees with the Democratic Party leadership a lot of the time. But he strongly emphasized that he is "bucking for a balanced budget amendment, and I am bucking for control of federal expenditures. And nobody in Congress is as strong a fiscal conservative as I am in pursuing these goals."He lamented what will happen if Congress and the Bush administration don't come to agreement during the weekend on how to pay federal workers. If the Gramm-Rudman budget-cutting measure goes into effect, it would have a devastating impact on many areas of government, including air-traffic control, meat inspection and those who cut Social Security checks, he said.
Owens outlined his work on legislation such as the Central Utah Project and bills supporting payment for Utah cancer victims of nuclear-test fallout.
He said he has proven his ability over many years to strengthen and build the state. "I have earned and merited your continued confidence and continued support."
He said a CUP bill will move from the House to the Senate within the next week. He said the legislation has far-reaching effects for not only water but for environmental and fish and game interests. It is a $679 million piece of legislation, he said.
"It (has moved this far) because Jake (Sen. Jake Garn) and I worked very closely together and compromised between us the different interests involved," Owens said.
Owens said he has been instrumental in securing $1 million in congressional funds to correct a safety problem on 8400 West in Magna, but he said there is what he called a little dispute as to how it should be spent. He said he regrets that he hasn't been able to secure support for preventing the importation of Portland Cement tailings to the Magna area.