The 3rd Congressional District GOP primary is getting a bit mean, with incumbent Chris Cannon charging that challenger Jason Chaffetz is misrepresenting the congressman's record "every time" he opens his mouth.
In a KUED Ch. 7 debate taped Friday afternoon (broadcast at 8:30 p.m. Friday and to be repeated at 11:30 a.m. Sunday) both men interrupted each other a number of times, with Cannon seemingly losing his cool at various points, leading KUER newsman Doug Frabrizio, the moderator, to ask both men to stop talking over each other.
After the cameras were off they did shake hands, but then Cannon, who seeks a seventh term in the June 24 GOP primary, charged that Chaffetz continually, and knowingly, does not tell the truth about the congressman's record.
Chaffetz asked Cannon to "tell me specifically how I misstate your record."
"You do it every time you speak," Cannon countered. "Tell me specifically and I'll stop saying it," Chaffetz replied.
But Cannon just strode from the set, saying maybe they can deal with it in another debate.
The discussion got most heated when Chaffetz said that Cannon's introduction of an oil-shale production bill "just 15 days from the primary" is just like the games that incumbents are playing in Congress these days.
"You had 12 years" in office to do something about oil-shale production and the rising cost of gasoline, Chaffetz said, but only acted now.
Cannon countered that if America had pushed the oil-shale production he has fought for since being elected to Congress, that oil would now be coming on the market and oil prices "would plummet" because of the price competition. "You clearly don't know my record on oil shale" or anything else, Cannon chided Chaffetz.
"I'm looking at results. And we're not getting them," Chaffetz countered.
Wrong, Cannon said. He has been a leader in pushing for oil shale production since the day he went to Washington. And Chaffetz is purposely misrepresenting that record, he said.
Cannon asked Chaffetz to give one example where he would have voted differently. Chaffetz said Cannon missed a vote on Dec. 15, 2005, on an "important" immigration matter, when Cannon had voted on the bill just before and the bill just after.
"You're complaining about a vote I missed, when I was out (in the hallway) working for constituents, not a bill I voted on," Cannon said. "Why is one vote I missed relevant?"
"You tell the voters of Utah that you have a 100 percent record on voting for enforcement on immigration." When in fact Cannon missed that vote and voted "the wrong way" on a few other immigration issues, Chaffetz said. "It's just not true" that Cannon is right on the immigration issue, Chaffetz said.
Cannon then said he has been ranked as one of the most conservative-voting members of Congress, and why does Chaffetz want to replace him when Chaffetz should be running against Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, who consistently votes with the Democrats all the time? Chaffetz actually lives in Matheson's 2nd District area.
"I'd like to get rid of both of you," Chaffetz said. But Matheson's on the 3rd District ballot this year, not the 2nd District's, he said.
"It is no longer enough to have an 'R' by your name," Chaffetz said. One has to vote like a conservative Republican, too. And Cannon doesn't, he said.
Cannon voted "for the single largest budget, and consequently the single largest deficit in the history of the United States," Chaffetz said. "People like me and others in Utah say you are not carrying the Republican banner."
Cannon said that he's tried to be a leader on any number of energy issues, but that Democrats and Republicans who vote like Democrats have stymied him every time.
"The time to act was 12 years ago, when (Republicans) controlled the presidency and both" houses of Congress, Chaffetz said.
Republicans "didn't act," Chaffetz said, and Republicans across the country are mad at the incumbents in both parties.
On health care, Chaffetz said he likes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's approach. Chaffetz said he wants a private sector solution, and doesn't believe you can mandate that people who lack health insurance must get it.
But Romney's Massachusetts plan is not working, Cannon said.
Cannon said he has made public the budget earmarks he's asked for. But Chaffetz said Cannon didn't do that consistently over the past 12 years and that he will not vote for any earmarks while Cannon continues to do so.
"It is just not true" that his earmarks are not public, Cannon said. "You do this all the time," he said, meaning Chaffetz' misrepresentation of his record.
Cannon said earmarks should be public, as his are. In reality, earmarks are just Congress telling the bureaucrats where to spend money that is already appropriated. If individual congressmen don't list priorities, the bureaucrats will spend the money their own way, and that is not good, either, he said.Cannon acknowledged that many Republicans, even those in the 3rd District, are not happy these days. But he said his job approval ratings are actually getting better as the primary election wears on, despite Chaffetz continually misrepresenting his record.