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Debate filled with sharp retorts

Swallow attacks Matheson from the very start

Just as their campaign commercials have become increasingly bitter, the second debate between 2nd Congressional District Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and challenger John Swallow started with aggressive exchanges and remained tense.

From the outset of Friday's debate, Swallow attacked Matheson's voting record in Congress, especially his votes against aspects of President Bush's tax cuts, abortion laws, as well as the incumbent's support of Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. The charges were almost identical to those that Swallow and the Republican National Committee make in television advertisements currently running, but he expanded by saying that Matheson tells Utahns one thing but does another in Congress.

The debate was taped for the news program "On the Record with Chris Vanocur," which will air on KTVX Channel 4 Sunday morning. Because of scheduling conflicts, the program will air earlier than normal, at 8 a.m.

"It's important to talk about these issues, and it's important to talk about his votes," Swallow said. "It's also important to know that he will vote for Kerry."

Matheson defended his record by explaining that the votes which Swallow referenced are not portrayed accurately — for instance, the abortion bills would have actually permitted taxpayer money to be used for abortions in military hospitals, which he is opposed to — and that he has remained true to his constituents' desires.

"What I say I'll do in Utah and what I do in D.C. are the same things," he said. "I'm offended that he would insinuate that, and I'm disappointed he would resort to it."

As for supporting Kerry, Matheson said it is because of one primary issue: nuclear testing, something which he said Kerry unequivocally opposes. Bush, on the other hand, wants to start researching new nuclear weapons such as a "bunker buster" bomb, and new research will have to be tested, he said.

Swallow disputed that, saying that new weapons could probably be researched and produced without testing or, if testing is needed, the weapons should be tested somewhere besides Nevada. Swallow also opposed nuclear testing and said he would "use all of my influence as a Republican" to ensure that no testing is done near Utah.

The candidates only agreed with each other on a couple of issues, including the Iraq war, in which they both said the job needs to be finished before American troops leave and that they need to make sure the troops are properly funded. They also agreed that prescription drugs from Canada should be allowed, so long as they are safe.

On two issues, Matheson actually supported Bush while Swallow was critical: No Child Left Behind and the Medicare program.

On No Child, Matheson said that "the intent was good, but the implementation has gone too far," while Swallow said that it was wrong because it "usurped the state's right" to manage education. As for the Medicare program, Swallow said it cost too much money and did more to help drug companies than senior citizens, while Matheson said it gave seniors relief from quickly escalating drug prices that they desperately need.


E-mail: jloftin@desnews.com