- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

OREM, Utah (AP) - Democrat and former Overstock.com executive Stephen Tryon said he is challenging Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz because the congressman is more interested in chasing the national spotlight than representing his district.

Tryon’s comments came during a heated Wednesday night debate at Utah Valley University in Orem. He accused Chaffetz of putting himself and the Republican Party above what’s best for the country.

But Chaffetz countered that his chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee brings power to his district and is a key reason he should be elected to a fifth term.

“I have the pleasure to serve as one of only 18 people in the U.S. Congress out of 435 that serves as chairman of an authorizing committee,” Chaffetz said during the hour-long debate. “That helps drive the agenda and really hold people accountable.”

Tryon, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who graduated from West Point and taught there for three years, specifically went after Chaffetz on his use of the committee to question Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s decision to store emails on a non-classified server and her handling of the deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Both events occurred during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

“You were grandstanding and politicizing the deaths of Americans, and that is unconscionable,” said Tryon, criticizing Chaffetz for going on national television after the attacks in Benghazi.

Chaffetz fought back, saying his committee’s hearings raised important questions about why Americans were not protected during those attacks. He called Clinton a liar and said, “I think she uses cronyism to new levels. I cannot say enough bad things about her.”

Tryon also invoked the name of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, criticizing Chaffetz for supporting Trump until it was revealed that Trump was taped making sexually aggressive comments about women.

“It shocked me that our congressman wouldn’t make the call on Donald Trump before it was politically necessary,” Tryon said.

Chaffetz withdrew his endorsement of Trump after the tape emerged, but he hasn’t said whether or not he will still vote for the Republican nominee.

The congressional candidates also faced off on issues like government surveillance and public lands. Chaffetz said he doesn’t trust the government to gather information about citizens, while Tryon spoke of balancing privacy with the need for national security.

The congressman also called the Public Lands Initiative a bipartisan approach on public lands that balances preservation and economic development, but Tryon said the initiative has problems. He said Native American issues should be resolved before the state worries about how to carve up public lands.

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