Utah's 3rd Congressional District is the most conservative in Utah, one of the most conservative in the nation. Republican Rep. Howard Nielson, who has held the seat since its creation after the 1980 Census, has never seriously been challenged in three previous elections.

This year Democrat Robert Stringham is out after Nielson. Although trailing badly in the polls, Stringham has taken the race to the incumbent, offering what he says is a clear alternative.The Deseret News asked all federal candidates a series of questions. And sure enough, the Nielson-Stringham contest offered the greatest contrast. Here are how the two stand on the issues:

Both believe the most critical problem with the federal government is the budget deficit. And both believe the lagging economy and lack of jobs in the 3rd District are their constituents' top concern.

Nielson and Stringham support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution to force Congress and the president to adopt a reasonable spending plan.

Nielson wants tax credits to spur local business development. Stringham wants to complete the Central Utah Project, and promises to "diligently search out" national and international businesses to locate in the district.

Stringham says the Equal Rights Amendment, which has been reintroduced into Congress, is so controversial that it can't succeed. He's for equal rights for women, but believes working for proper legislation on the state and federal level is the way to get it.

Nielson opposes the ERA, although he too is for equal rights for women.

"I favor sending military and humanitarian aid to the Contras," said Nielson. Stringham said he's opposed to more military aid to the Contras. "America's continued support for the Nicaraguan rebels will only lead to further legitimizing the Soviet and Cuban influence in Central America," he said. Stringham would give humanitarian in-kind aid to the Contras, but only if they abide by the Arias peace plan's cease fire.

Nielson supports the funding of the Strategic Defense Initiative, "at current levels." Stringham wants some research funding for SDI. But he adds he doesn't want to spend trillions of dollars on deploying a defense system of questionable worth when the real threat to America is "homeless families, hunger, unemployment and underemployment."

Nielson is opposed to federal funding of child care and federal child care guidelines. "I feel that each person should pay for his own

child care," he said.

"I'm very much in favor of federally-funded child care," said Stringham, "and of the guidelines to ensure the quality of all child care centers." Federally-funded child care helps both sides of the equation, as people get off welfare and get to work, and pay more taxes to support the government, he added.

Stringham said he opposes abortion except in the rare cases where the mother's life is in danger. He supports only federal funding of abortions in those strict instances.

Nielson opposes abortions except where the mother's life is in danger, and in cases of rape and incest. He also supports federal funding of abortions in the cases where the mother's life is in danger.

Nielson also supports the death penalty in drug-related murders. Stringham believes the fight to stop drugs and drug abuse is very important, but that violating the sanctity of life shouldn't be left to such imperfect laws.

Special legislation protecting the rights of homosexuals isn't needed, both men said.