- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Three weeks from Election Day, Democrat Doug Owens and Republican Mia Love used a Tuesday night debate to appeal to independents and undecided voters by each portraying themselves as the candidate more likely to work across political divides in Congress.

Love, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, and Owens, a Salt Lake City attorney, are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat who has represented a right-leaning district for seven terms.

Love, who narrowly lost to Matheson in 2012, was expecting another close rematch this year in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

With Matheson out of the way, Love’s head start, ready donors and national attention have given her an edge.

A Love victory would make her the first black female Republican elected to Congress and would also mark the first time in 14 years that Utah would be without a Democrat in its congressional delegation.

Owens said Tuesday night that he knows there are voters who still don’t know his name, and he hoped the televised debate would help.

During the debate at the University of Utah, Owens tried to paint Love as someone with extreme views while touting the bipartisan work done by his own father, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Wayne Owens of Utah.

Love said Owens was attacking her instead of the issues. She said if more decisions were made at a local level instead of in Washington, D.C., there will be less partisan divisions.

“In Saratoga Springs, we didn’t run around with R’s and D’s stamped on our forehead,” she said.

Here’s a rundown on a few key issues in Tuesday’s debate:

HEALTH CARE

Love said she would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, saying fewer people are insured now than they were before the law took effect. Love said her plan to replace the law would allow people to buy health insurance across state lines, among other proposals.

Owens said there are a lot of problems with the health care law, calling it “lamentable” that the bill didn’t have bipartisan support. But Owens said issues with the law can be fixed, and it’s too late to repeal it.

GRIDLOCK IN WASHINGTON

Owens has criticized Love for her support of U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, the Utah Republican who helped lead a fight last year that precipitated a 16-day partial government shutdown over the health care law.

“I find it interesting that my opponent claims he wants to end the dysfunction, yet with the other hand, does everything he can to attack,” Love said Tuesday.

Love said she would not have supported the government shutdown. She made several references to her time as mayor, saying the city budget was balanced with collaborative efforts.

“When you get the decision-making close to people, you see party lines go away,” she said.

Owens said he would have opposed the shutdown. When it comes to political gridlock, he said he’d look to his father’s example and that of Matheson, who has endorsed Owens in the race.

EDUCATION

Owens criticized comments Love made about education while she was campaigning two years ago, highlighting Love’s comments that she’d like to get rid of the U.S. Department of Education and a deficit-reduction plan that would get rid of college loan programs, among other proposals.

“Frankly, my opponents’ views on this issue are quite extreme. They do not come from Utah. They come from some other place, and frankly, some other era,” Owens said.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Love said she never wanted to get rid of federal student loans but “have a discussion on everything that Washington was spending funds on and I wanted to put it on the table.”

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Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice

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