Third time is a charm between Rep. John Curtis and Chris Herrod in GOP-sponsored debate
Two terms Representative John Curtis and challenger Chris Herrod made their case to Republican voters during a debate at Brigham Young University on Friday night. This is the third time the two faced off in a primary for Utah’s 3rd congressional district.
“One way or another, our destiny keeps bringing us back,” Curtis joked to Herrod.
Both qualified for the primary GOP Nominating Convention in April, but Herrod won more delegate support than the incumbent congressman.
GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen hosted the party-sponsored debateafter encouraging candidates in the congressional primary elections not to participate in the Utah Debate Commission Events.
The party has said it wants more control over committee proceedings because only Republicans are on the ballot for the US Senate and House.
Candidates answered questions on topics such as government spending, immigration and abortion. In the Texas elementary school shooting aftermath which left 19 students and two teachers dead, Jorgensen asked how the candidates proposed to protect “our children and our schools while maintaining the Second Amendment.”
Both stressed their support for the right to bear arms. Curtis said he doesn’t believe there’s a quick fix to mass shootings in the country, whether it’s mental health support or gun safety.
“I think we have to admit that we had a breakdown in families, we had a breakdown in churches, we had a breakdown in communities that allowed this stuff to happen,” Curtis said. . “So I’m ready with my colleagues to ask questions about how it happened and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Meanwhile, Herrod suggested that more of the federal pandemic relief money should have been spent on school safety but argued that children should know “there is no safer place than to be in school”.
Throughout the debate, Herrod emphasized his continued loyalty to former President Donald Trump. Curtis has generally been considered the more moderate of the two candidates.
In his closing statement, Herrod wanted to make it easier for voters to choose.
“There are two different wings in the Republican Party,” he said. “If you’re more aligned with Mitt Romney and Spencer Cox, then I’m probably not your man. But if you think the days of being on the fence or in the middle are over, then I am. I believe that we are at a critical moment in America, that we have very little time to fix things, and if we don’t fix them quickly, our country will fall apart.
The GOP is sponsoring debates for the 2nd congressional district and the Senate next week.
Holly Richardson, a former state representative and longtime Republican who lives in the 3rd congressional district, said the party’s insistence on holding its own debates shows its leadership is becoming more extreme.
“I think it’s inspired by former President Trump’s playbook,” Richardson said. “Where if you don’t do it the way we want you to do it, we’ll just take our ball and go home.”
Even though only registered Republicans can participate in the party’s primary, Richardson said it’s a lost opportunity to reach a broader group of voters.
“As every elected official should tell you, they represent everyone in their district,” she said. “They don’t just represent the small segment of voters who agree with them.”
So far, Rep. Blake Moore is the only incumbent to confirm his participation in the committee’s proceedings.