- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Republican Mia Love and Democrat Doug Owens met in their final debate Thursday where they dealt each other their sharpest criticisms yet while emphasizing their Utah ties and bipartisan appeal.

In the debate on KSL Radio’s “Doug Wright Show,” the candidates in Utah’s closest race this year also rehashed arguments about education, student loans and the health care law.

Owens, a Salt Lake City attorney, accused Love of obscuring her views on education. He painted her as a candidate with extreme views who would fall in line with her party instead of working across the aisle.

Love, the former mayor of Saratoga Springs, accused Owens of attacking her instead of the issues, including making comments about her religious values.

If she wins Utah’s 4th Congressional District on Tuesday, Love would become the first black female Republican ever elected in Congress.

Here’s some key themes that came up in Thursday’s debate:

CAMPAIGN RHETORIC

Love on Thursday said Owens has spent the campaign attacking her instead of offering his own ideas.

When asked if she felt she had been personally attacked, Love said Owens had made comments about her Mormon faith.

Owens, who is also a member of the Utah-based The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reportedly made the comments in April while speaking to the LDS Democratic Caucus.

According The Salt Lake Tribune, Owens said he thought Democratic values aligned with the church and said, “I don’t think Mia Love represents LDS values, frankly.”

About two-thirds of Utah residents are members of the church.

“To say that I don’t have LDS values because I’m a Republican, what does that say for all of the rest of the people that are out there that are Republicans that are LDS?” Love said Thursday.

Owens denied making the comment.

“We are members of the same church, so I don’t know how I would be doing any such thing,” he said.

EDUCATION

Owens, who touts the endorsement of two Utah public teachers unions, said Love has extreme views that include wanting to do away with the Department of Education and federal student loans.

“We value education in this state and we can’t do away with that funding,” Owens said.

Love said she doesn’t want to get rid of student loans but instead expand the options for students beyond federal loan programs. She said she wants more education money spent in Utah then in Washington, D.C.

EXPERIENCE

As she has throughout the campaign, Love touted her time as mayor and a city council member in Saratoga Springs. But she also pointedly noted Thursday that she’s the only candidate with experience in public office.

Owens referenced his work as a business defense attorney and the two years he took off to be a stay-at-home father 20 years ago. During a discussion on public land issues, Owens said oil and gas firms were among his legal clients and he would balance those interests with recreation and preservation.

UTAH APPEAL

Both candidates said they are gun owners and supporters of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Owens said he grew up using guns while hunting.

Love said she has a permit to carry a concealed firearm and believes the 2nd Amendment is “not there merely for hunting” but for people to protect themselves.

Owens touted his family’s Utah roots, noting he’s the sixth generation in the state.

Love decried “D.C. politics as usual” and advocated for Utah to have more control over its lands and education.

“The choice we have on Nov. 4 is either a choice of down or up,” Love said. “A choice between people and politics that will make us either slaves or make us free.”

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

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