PROVO, Utah (News4Utah)- Tuesday night, the two candidates vying for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate went head to head.
The Utah Debate Commission hosted a marathon day of debating, which was capped off with the race to replace outgoing Senator Orrin Hatch.
Former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wants the job.
“By virtue of the experiences I’ve had, and also by the relationships I have with the White House and with some 40 senators who I’ve campaigned with, Republicans all, I believe I’ll be able to help Utah continue to punch above its weight,” said Romney.
So does state Representative Mike Kennedy.
“I love Utah. It’s a pleasure to serve here, and the people are outstanding, and I want to make sure that we have an outstanding representative in Washington to make sure Washington works for Utah, not Utah working for Washington,” said Kennedy.
On the campus of BYU, the two weighed in on key issues. One area they have disagreement on is gun control.
Kennedy supports intervention, not changing current law.
“When it comes to banning things like bump stocks, it doesn’t work, so I don’t believe that’s going to be a useful step,” he said.
Romney says there is room for some changes.
“I do not favor new federal gun legislation. The exception is with regards to enhanced background checks, that the president has also called for, and I also think we should ban the sale of bump stocks,” he said.
The two also shared thoughts on North Korea, trade, healthcare and immigration.
It got a little heated when their different approaches to controversial Texas pastor Robert Jeffress came up.
“For Representative Kennedy to call him and apologize to him is absolutely inexplicable. Jeffress should be apologizing to Representative Kennedy and to the people of Utah, of my faith, of other faiths,” Romney said.
“When he’s labeling President Trump as a phony and as a fraud, and Pastor Jeffress as a bigot, I don’t see those as productive steps in building relationships,” Kennedy said.
According to the latest Utah Policy poll, Kennedy has some serious ground to make up. It puts Romney up by 43 points among likely voters.
The Primary Election is Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Look for mail in ballots to arrive the week of June 5, 2018.