1 of 24
Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, left, talks with Democratic challenger Scott Howell before the start of the VoteUtah 2012 U.S. Senate Debate Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Provo, Utah.

PROVO — Senate candidate Scott Howell wants voters to know that not all Democrats are evil. Sen. Orrin Hatch concedes there are a few good ones, but when they get together bad things happen.

"Let's get the elephant out of the room," Howell said Wednesday during a debate at Brigham Young University. "I'm a conservative Democrat."

The six-term Republican senator gave Howell a "little credit" for being conservative but said he'd have to play ball with his party if he goes to Washington.

"Once a Democrat gets back there he goes right along with the Democratic Party," Hatch said. "Lets face it. That's the liberal party."

Howell replied, "That dog's not going to hunt anymore, senator."

The two candidates tussled over partisanship, health care and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during their only televised debate. It will be broadcast at 9 p.m. today on several public television stations, including KBYU, KUED and KUEN. Howell and Hatch will meet on KSL Newsradio next week.

"It was finally nice I found him. I've been to all 29 counties and haven't been able to find him," Howell said of Hatch afterward, referring to the lack of face-to-face contests in the election.

Howell dropped several LDS Church references during the hourlong exchange. He brought Mormon missionaries into an answer about war in Afghanistan and again while talking about leadership, along with a mention of a Book of Mormon prophet named King Benjamin.

As he did during the primary election, Hatch reminded voters that he's the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and touted the possibility of becoming its chairman should the GOP win a majority in the Senate. He also reiterated that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney supports him and wants him in Washington.

"Sometimes I wonder if I'm running against Mitt Romney or Sen. Hatch," Howell said.

"Both of us," Hatch replied.

Howell said Hatch moved so far right to win re-election that he has lost the collaborative spirit he once had. Hatch countered that he has a long history of reaching across the aisle to get things done.

Howell and Hatch differed sharply on the Affordable Care Act commonly called Obamacare.

Calling it "atrocious," Hatch said Obamacare is anything but affordable. Republicans, he said, found some good things in the bill but Democrats wouldn't deal with them on those issues. He said Obamacare will "lead us down to destruction and eat us alive." He favors repealing and replacing it.

Howell called the law a "stake in the ground" that he wouldn't kill but rather amend and improve using some of those Republican ideas. He said he likes that young people can remain on their parents' insurance up to age 26 and that coverage includes pre-existing conditions.

Both candidates became exercised answering questions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Howell criticized Hatch for voting for two unfunded wars, noting Afghanistan is costing the federal government $300 million a day. He said he wants U.S. troops out of the country immediately because it's a war that can't be won.

The British and the Russians couldn't solve Afghanistan and the United States can't either, he said.

"Let them be themselves. If we do anything, let's send missionaries there. I think they could do a better job than what we've done in the military right now," Howell said.

19 comments on this story

Hatch became indignant and raised his voice when defending his votes on the wars.

"When some group of people come and attack our country and kill 3,000 people, you don't sit back and say, 'Oh, we can't spend money on that.' I don't care what it costs to get out there and let them know they can't take over our country and do these things to us," he said.

Republicans and Democrats, Hatch said, agreed to a 2014 withdrawal and the U.S. military is currently training Afghans to take care of themselves.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy