Nick Mitchell and Chris Stewart clash during the debate in Utah’s 2nd congressional district on elections and abortion in 2020

Utah Rep. Chris Stewart’s decision to vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election was the subject of heated exchanges between the Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger Nick Mitchell at a Friday night debate.

The two candidates for Utah’s 2nd congressional district, along with Cassie Easley of the Constitution Party, took the stage at Southern Utah University in Cedar City to address a debate hosted by the Utah Debate Commission on trust in government, abortion and… to discuss inflation.

“I wish our government would stop just lying to us,” the congressman told moderator Boyd Matheson when asked how to win back Americans’ trust. Stewart continued, “Having the CDC or other healthcare professionals say things they knew at the time wasn’t true, and they’ll come back to it a little later that they knew wasn’t true.” It breaks trust in fundamental institutions.”

(Asher Swan | Pool) Nick Mitchell speaks during the 2nd congressional district debate in Cedar City on Friday, October 14, 2022.

Mitchell, who said before Stewart’s response that the way to restore confidence is to keep corporate money out of politics, challenged the congressman, saying, “It’s interesting that Rep. Stewart addressed the truth because on Jan. 6 we had the opportunity to do the right thing, the true thing, and he chose not to confirm the choice. Even after the Capitol was stormed, he chose not to do it.”

On January 4, 2021, Stewart announced in a tweet that he would not vote to confirm the results of the 2020 presidential election. Before he could confirm these results, he wrote on Twitter at the time, “irregularities in voting” would have to be corrected. After the January 6 riot in the US Capitol, Stewart joined Rep. Burgess Owens in being the only member of the Utah federal delegation not to confirm Pennsylvania’s votes.

Had Pennsylvania’s results not been confirmed, Stewart argued in the debate, it would not have changed who sits in the White House, but he was concerned about the legality of the state’s electoral process.

“Honestly, if you’re making an allegation like this, which is essentially treason, you should be sure whether it’s true or not,” Stewart said, responding to Mitchell.

Americans’ trust in another branch of government, the US justice system, has fallen to an all-time low after earlier this year the US Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson that abortion is not a constitutional right, the pollster said Gallup .

While Easley and Stewart shared similar views on the federal government’s role in abortion policy, Mitchell disagreed with his opponents. Both Easley and the incumbent are anti-abortion, and both said they support states that have the ability to make their own policies.

“When it comes to abortion, I’m against it, but I’m for women to have choices,” Easley said. “You should choose not to have sex because it will lead to pregnancy if you don’t want to get pregnant or use protection.”

Abortion is banned with limited exceptions under a trigger law that went into effect in Utah following the Supreme Court ruling. However, this law is temporarily suspended while Utah courts determine its legality.

“I want everyone to know that I am in favor of allowing a woman to make that choice,” Mitchell said. “The problem I have with it being pushed back to the States is that it’s not really being pushed back to the States or the people. It’s a handful of legislators making the decision for the people.”

(Asher Swan | Pool) Rep. Chris Stewart (right) speaks during the 2nd congressional district debate in Cedar City on Friday, October 14, 2022.

Stewart told viewers he thinks “it’s worth drawing attention to” that some members of the Democratic Party “say they would allow abortions to childbirth.”

“I can’t imagine how anyone could find that morally justifiable when we know this infant or child’s viability is months before that,” Stewart said.

Mitchell countered that the Republican Party’s stance on abortion includes exceptions for rape, incest and mother’s life. Looking at Stewart, he hypothetically asked if an expectant mother’s health was compromised by a heart problem, even if she gave birth in a week, would she qualify for an abortion?

“So we, as a government, cannot determine when the mother’s life is in such jeopardy that she can make that decision,” the Democrat said. “And if it’s last trimester, they’ve picked a name; I did. You have a room ready for this baby; I did.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent abortion surveillance report, which is based on 2019 data, “almost all” abortions are performed before the 13th week.

(Asher Swan | Pool) Congressional candidate Cassie Easley addresses the 2nd congressional district debate in Cedar City on Friday, October 14, 2022.

On inflation, both Stewart and Mitchell pointed fingers at each other’s party, with the congressman blaming high spending bills, and Mitchell told media after the debate that it was a result of former President Donald’s tax cuts Trump is.

Easley said the solution to inflation is cutting taxes, government spending and regulation.

Also running for the 2nd congressional district seat is United Utah Party’s Jay McFarland, who has raised four times as much as Mitchell according to recent FEC filings, while Easley has not raised enough to file an FEC filing. McFarland failed to meet an electoral threshold set by the Utah Debate Commission to participate in the debate.

Watch the full debate here. Nick Mitchell and Chris Stewart clash during the debate in Utah’s 2nd congressional district on elections and abortion in 2020

Justin Scacco

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