MURRAY — The platforms of John Swallow and Tim Bridgewater, Republicans running against each other in the 2nd Congressional District, are almost identical. Both want to cut taxes. Both want to decrease size and scope of the federal government.

And both want Rep. Democrat Jim Matheson out.

"Fundamentally, we agree on a lot of issues," Bridgewater acknowledged Wednesday night.

"We all know Washington is very interested in this race," Swallow said.

About 70 people attended Wednesday's debate between Swallow and Bridgewater at the Desert Star Playhouse. The candidates answered questions submitted by members of the audience. The debate was Webcast by Brigham Young University journalism students and can be viewed at

Bridgewater, a small businessman and consultant who worked for the Reagan administration encouraging Latin American governments and corporations to repay American creditors, distinguished himself from Swallow by saying he was not an attorney or longtime politician. "I think many of the problems we have in Washington, D.C., need common-sense solutions. I can bring that," he said.

Swallow, a state representative from Sandy, said he knows politics. He doesn't consider himself a typical attorney because he left private practice six years ago and now provides legal counsel for a company. "Let my voting record speak for itself," he said.

And while both believe the federal government shouldn't be heavily involved in education, Swallow goes all the way.

"If I could be czar for the day, I'd get rid of the Department of Education," he said.

Swallow believes federal dollars given to the department could be better used at a local level. He wouldn't have voted for George W. Bush's education bill because, although it gives federal money to local schools, it was grant money with strings attached. The bill also increased the Department of Education's budget, he said. Bridgewater said he would have voted for the bill.

Both believe government should provide tax credits to parents who opt to enroll their children in private and parochial schools. They also support school prayer.

"We don't have a separation of church and state (in the U.S. Constitution). We have an establishment clause which says government can't establish a religion," Swallow said.

"I also believe people have a fundamental right not to participate" in prayer, Bridgewater said.

They said the U.S. war on terrorism should be aggressive. Bridgewater thinks the CIA and FBI should be beefed up. "I don't believe the step forward in creating the Homeland Security was the right step," he said.

Both support stem-cell research and oppose human cloning. "I want to make sure we draw a clear line between life and research," Swallow said.

As supporters for states rights, they believe Nevadans have a right to reject the plan to bury nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. But Swallow worries that if Nevadans are successful in their fight "it'll come here."

They are interested in reforming health care but oppose a national system. Bridgewater believes there should be caps in the amount of money paid to successful litigants in malpractice suits because that drives up the cost of care. Swallow wants to consider allowing people to buy health insurance with pretax money.

Both men signed a promise they would not increase taxes if elected to office.

"Seventeen thousand pages of tax code — that's ridiculous," said Swallow, who has been recognized by the Utah Taxpayers Association for efficient government spending.

"Basically, it's (the IRS) a system that is corrupt," said Bridgewater. "I think we have to fight this battle hard."