Democrat Bob Stringham says he'd like to debate Howard Nielson forever in his bid to win the 3rd Congressional District seat from the incumbent Republican.

"Up until this time all he's had to say is `I'll vote for what Ronnie wants.' This time that won't work for him," Stringham said.Stringham claims he has emerged victorious from all of the debates he's had with Nielson. "The race is really heating up," Stringham said, "because the race is issue oriented, not personality oriented."

Stringham's critique of Nielson's voting record in Congress is simple and absolute: "He's voted against everything that would benefit the people in his district."

Stringham's campaign message, therefore, is "How has Howard voted?"

Nielson views the outcome of the debates differently and said debating might give Stringham the education he needs to run for office - a lower office.

"He may someday be a good congressman, but he needs background first," Nielson said, suggesting Stringham collect some experience in a state elected office before he can become a viable candidate for a federal office.

Riverton Mayor Dale Gardiner was the last Democrat to challenge Nielson and was a more qualified opponent, Nielson said. "Mayor Gardiner had been elected twice and had a fairly good background in politics. I don't see that in Stringham."

Nielson has missed a number of scheduled debates and other appearances with Stringham because the current session of Congress has continued past the scheduled adjournment date, keeping Nielson and other Utah representatives in Washington and away from the local campaign trail.

Julie Nielson, the congressman's wife and campaign manager, and staff member Sam Klemm have appeared in the congressman's behalf on many occasions.

"It's easier for me to debate Howard, not his wife or staff people," Stringham said, adding that Nielson's campaign may be better off if he's in Washington.

Nielson believes his absence during scheduled campaign appearances gives Stringham the advantage. He also believes Stringham is pulling some low punches.

"I think a guy's record is fair game," Nielson said, claiming Stringham misrepresents his record while politicking on sensitive issues like education and unemployment.

"I can usually straighten him out where he's irresponsible (during debates), but he does it to my wife on debates where she doesn't have the legislative memory I have," Nielson said, accusing Stringham of either distorting or not knowing Nielson's voting record.

"When he first started out he blamed me for cuts in '81 and '82. I'm not sure how I would have voted because I didn't go there until January of '83," Nielson said. "He's running a very negative, nitpicking campaign."

The most recent poll by Dan Jones & Associates showed Nielson had gained another 10 points over Stringham to widen his lead to 62-22 percent.

Yet Stringham is optimistic - campaigning stubbornly and working hard to raise money.