On Monday, incumbent Rep. Blake Moore debated his Republican primary challenger Paul Miller for Utah’s 1st District congressional seat.

The debate, held at the PBS studios at the University of Utah, was largely civil but became heated at times as Miller attacked Moore’s voting record.

Moore responded by fact-checking Miller’s statements at times, and in other instances refused to answer his opponent’s direct questions, instead engaging with moderator Julie Rose, host of Top of Mind on BYU Radio.

Moore pitched himself to voters as someone with a breadth of knowledge and experience in policy. During the hourlong debate, he repeatedly tried “to make a contrast between what the reality is versus what the rhetoric is,” he told reporters after the debate.

Moore said he was pleased with his performance, and said he also appreciated Miller’s willingness to admit he misquoted facts a few times.

Meanwhile, Miller, an electrician, positioned himself as a member of the middle class. He reiterated his outsider status throughout, saying, “There’s one thing that I have that Blake doesn’t have is that I am the middle class.” He also said he was pleased with his performance after the debate.

The debate touched on the issue of aid to Ukraine, the migrant crisis at the southern border, government spending and the national debt, and tax cuts.

Blake Moore during a 1st Congressional District GOP primary debate at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024. | Chris Samuels, The Salt Lake Tri

Workforce in Utah’s 1st District

Rose started off by asking the two candidates what they would do to ensure Utah could fulfill its workforce needs, including on Hill Air Force Base.

Miller called the Air Force base “vital for the first.” He said he hopes to promote its growth through college programs while connecting the base with others. But this should be paired with a “control on our military expenditure,” he said.

Moore responded by diving into his legislative agenda. First, he said, continue funding existing defense programs at the Air Force base that will direct jobs to the 1st District. He said he also wants to repeal the 180-day rule that requires a retired veteran to wait an “arbitrary” amount of time to work for the Defense Department.

The Internal Revenue Service also has a big presence in the 1st District.

Moore said the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act poured $8 billion into this agency. “The IRS doesn’t need that. The folks at the IRS, they say the most important thing they need is better customer service capabilities,” he said. This year, House Republicans leveraged their position by repealing much of this funding.

His opponent, Miller acknowledged the importance of the IRS and his lack of expertise on this topic. He added he would want the 87,000 IRS agents, hired under the Biden administration, to be let go. Miller alleged these federal employees target middle and low-income families. “We don’t need more IRS agents,” he said.

Paul Miller during a 1st Congressional District GOP primary debate at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024. | Chris Samuels, The Salt Lake Tri

Russia-Ukraine war

Miller was asked what the U.S. response should look like if Russia wants to expand into NATO countries. “I am anti-Russia,” he said, adding the U.S. is bound to defend its allies. Moore reiterated the same.

About congressional action to deter Russia, Miller said sanctions haven’t done enough to hinder the Russian military. He also questioned why the U.S. should support Ukraine, asking Moore, “where are we getting the money to fund the Ukraine war?”

In his response, Moore, who has voted to fund aid to Ukraine, said he was more concerned with the cost of letting Russia take over Ukraine, and its threat to other countries. The cost of defense at that time “will be astronomical,” he said. Miller replied, “It’s not our job to protect democracy all around the world. If that were our job, you would be bankrupt.” Miller also accused Moore of not supporting funding for the border and contributing to the humanitarian crisis there.

Moore promptly dismissed that claim, and said he didn’t know what Miller was talking about. “It’s unfortunate because there’s so much spin, so much political rhetoric.”

Immigration

Moore said congressional lawmakers agree on a lot related to immigration, like reforming the skilled worker visa programs. But this needs to be coupled with measures like Remain in Mexico, a Trump-era policy that requires migrants to apply for asylum from Mexico, and, Moore said, to end the catch-and-release policy that doesn’t require border patrol agents to keep migrants in their custody. He listed other border security measures included in the House-passed HR 2.

“You have to deal with border security first, and then come on board with the merit-based immigration reform program that a lot of people already agree with,” Moore said.

Miller said he also agreed with HR 2 and that he isn’t willing “to comprise” on GOP priorities. “We just need to enforce the law,” he said, noting he would also support building out the rest of the wall at the southern border.

Government funding

Asked about whether they would support a large government funding package if they disagree with some part of the policies attached to it, Moore said he recognized House Speaker Mike Johnson’s work to strike a deal to pass an appropriations bill despite not supporting all the provisions.

Miller accused Moore of not being willing to shut down the government over spending, and said Republicans have compromised too much. Miller also claimed Moore was funding “Biden’s agenda,” which Moore refuted as well.

Moore said a “shutdown would be arbitrary,” adding that he believes even with a slim majority Republicans were able to achieve cuts in spending.

Income tax cuts

Miller said he would support extending the 2017 Trump-era personal income tax cuts, set to expire in 2025 because it helps the middle class. “I already know what my opponent’s going to say. He’s going to say that he’s going to need to be on the Budget Committee to implement these policies,” he said. “The Speaker of the House will find somebody else that will also vote in favor of these tax cuts.”

Moore corrected Miller, saying it is the Ways and Means committee that allows him to do this work. He noted the late Sen. Orrin Hatch had represented Utah in the Senate version of this committee and his own hard work that went into earning that assignment.

The winner of the GOP primary on June 25 will face off against two candidates, Democratic Bill Campbell and Libertarian Daniel Cottam, in the general election.

Paul Miller, left, and Blake Moore during a 1st Congressional District GOP primary debate at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City, Monday, June 10, 2024. | Chris Samuels, The Salt Lake Tri