Utah Rep. Blake Moore squared off with his GOP opponents Andrew Badger and Tina Cannon during an at times fiery debate Thursday ahead of Utah’s June 28 Republican primary.

While Moore sought to defend his record from accusations that he hasn’t done enough to fight against President Joe Biden in favor of conservative principles, Badger angled to position himself as the most passionate Republican on stage, and Cannon argued her budgetary experience best qualifies her to represent Utah’s 1st Congressional District in Washington, D.C.

Thursday’s debate was hosted by the Utah Debate Commission, broadcast live from KSL-TV’s studio in Salt Lake City, and was moderated by Thomas Wright, a former Utah Republican Party chairman.

Moore was the only Republican incumbent who agreed to participate in this week’s debates hosted by the nonpartisan Utah Debate Commission, saying he welcomed any opportunity to communicate his platform to voters — even though the Utah Republican Party discouraged candidates from participating in the Utah Debate Commission’s debates and sponsored its own debates instead.

Wednesday, Sen. Mike Lee and his GOP challengers Ally Isom and Becky Edwards took the stage for the GOP-hosted debate — the only debate that Lee agreed to participate in. Edwards and Isom are slated to join the Utah Debate Commission’s U.S. Senate debate scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, without Lee.

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Moore faces attacks

Thursday’s debate got heated when Badger took a shot at Moore for engaging in the Conservative Climate Caucus along with Rep. John Curtis.

“We need conservatives who aren’t going to buy into this climate change narrative,” Badger said, criticizing passage of the $1.5 trillion omnibus bill that’s “loaded” with climate change initiatives. “We have to stop passing this crazy legislation.”

Andrew Badger speaks during the 1st Congressional District Republican primary debate in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 2, 2022. | Trent Nelson

Moore pushed back, saying the “strongest argument against Biden’s war on oil and gas is being able to highlight” the work of the Conservative Climate Caucus. Moore said Utah’s investment in tier 3 refineries “makes it a more credible argument to support American energy independence.”

Badger took another shot at Moore, asking him why he supported the $1.5 trillion omnibus bill.

“I didn’t vote for the omnibus bill,” Moore shot back, noting he voted in favor of a defense and security related bill that won his and other House Republicans’ approval, not the omnibus bill. “There were two bills. I voted for the defense-related one.”

“I support our military,” Moore added. “I represent Hill Air Force Base. I have worked tirelessly and spent countless hours at Hill Air Force Base, making sure that I’m there to support them. That’s what I voted for.”

Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, speaks during the 1st Congressional District Republican primary debate in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 2, 2022. | Trent Nelson

The debate then momentarily devolved into disorder when all three candidates tried to talk over each other.

“All right, alright boys, my turn,” Cannon said, holding up her hands to both Badger and Moore.

She then accused Moore of being complicit in a flawed process. “This is why it matters that you understand how government works,” she said. “The longest-serving member of the House, Congressman (John Dingell) said, ‘If you let me control the process and I let you control the policy, I will beat you every time.’ And that’s what they did.”

Moore again defended himself, saying he plans to spend 18 hours on his birthday, on June 22 this month, in the House Armed Services Committee “fighting for the priorities that are most important to our national security.” When he voted for the defense spending bill, “I did not vote for Democrats’ appropriations bill.”

Cannon again sought to ding Moore. “This is part of the problem, and if you’re not willing to acknowledge, fight against it and speak out loudly against that process and change the process, then you’re not really representing even Hill Air Force Base or the voters who are paying that bill.”

Badger and Cannon also railed against Congress’ role in allowing more federal spending and increased national debt. They criticized passage of the infrastructure spending bill. “Where has this money gone to? Where is the benefit?” Badger asked.

Tina Cannon speaks during the 1st Congressional District Republican primary debate in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 2, 2022. | Trent Nelson

Cannon said Utah should only take federal infrastructure project money for projects relating to Hill Air Force Base and traffic along I-15. “Other than that, the federal government needs to stay as far away from Utah as possible,” she said.

Moore again sought to ward off the attacks.

“I wasn’t prepared to be criticized twice for a bill I never voted for,” he said. “I voted no on the infrastructure bill, let’s be very clear on that.”

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Moore said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has an “unbelievable ability to line up her entire conference behind any initiative that she wants,” and when Democrats took control of the White House, House and the Senate, they “put on the most progressive, liberal push we’ve ever seen in our history.”

“That’s why,” Moore added, “I remain focused on making sure we’re in the best position to win that back.”

The trio also tackled questions on inflation, growth, water, housing issues, high gas prices and how to prevent school shootings.

KSL-TV broadcast the entire debate, as well as livestreamed it on its Facebook page.

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