Day of Utah debates included primary battles in each major party

UTAH - The Utah Debate Commission held primary debates for two congressional races on Tuesday.

For the Utah Senate seat being vacated by Orrin Hatch, Republicans Mitt Romney and Dr. Mike Kennedy faced off, speaking on topics ranging from diplomacy to bipartisanship.

In the debate, Romney mentioned that spending is a big issue, and played a large role in why he was running for Senate.

Kennedy called federal spending "gluttonous," and said the government needed a balanced budget.

Both candidates agreed that North Korea should take steps to de-nuclearize.

Kennedy said that he personally would not be voting for the medical marijuana ballot initiative, and Romney agreed, saying the current initiative was not intended to allow just the medicinal use of marijuana.

Kennedy often stood by President Donald Trump, particularly when it came to trade negotiations.

In Utah's First Congressional District, Kurt Weiland faced Lee Castillo for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Rob Bishop in the Fall.

Weiland is a former Army officer and private businessman who says he was recruited to challenge Bishop.

Castillo is a mental health counselor working with inmates for the Utah State Hospital who says he wants to be Utah's first openly gay, Hispanic congressman.

They largely agreed on issues like approaching the opioid crisis as a health emergency and supporting measures to raise wages for women while increasing the availability of paid maternity and paternity leave.

One point of disagreement: criminal justice reform.

"I take issue with Lee's comment that the system is racist," Weiland said.

"I live it. I have been targeted. I know what I'm talking about," Castillo argued back.

In Utah's 3rd Congressional District, voters get a rematch from last years primary between former Provo Mayor John Curtis and former State Representative Chris Herrod.

This time Curtis is the incumbent.

From the outset, Herrod attack Curtis' bona fides as a conservative.

"My frustration is we can't be honest. It's fine if you're moderate or liberal," said Herrod.

"Unless you rant from the mountaintops, then all the sudden we're not good enough for you," Curtis replied.

Herrod said Curtis raised taxes as Mayor, and that his votes in the house have shown a streak of pragmatism that betrays the conservative movement. Most significantly, Herrod pointed to Curtis' support to bring an omnibus spending bill to the house floor for a vote.

Curtis said his vote was the "hard choice" to give get a budget passed despite Democratic objectives.

Herrod said some other Congressman like members of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus voted against the bill because it didn't cut enough fat from the budget.