Bishop, Olsen square off on partisan affiliations

By and

For the candidates competing for Utah’s 1st Congressional seat, national party affiliations are key.

Incumbent Republican Rob Bishop and his “conservative” Democratic challenger, Steve Olsen, are leading the race. Despite their opposing party affiliations, the candidates have similar stances on many issues.

Olsen and Bishop gave similar answers to many of the questions audience members asked during a town hall-style debate at the Hinckley Institute of Politics on Monday.

To highlight their differences, the candidates pointed to the reputation of party leaders in the House of Representatives.

The 1st Congressional District encompasses a portion of downtown Salt Lake City and most of Northern Utah.

Olsen said during his opening statement that Bishop is tied to “corrupt Republican leaders who have betrayed President (Ronald) Regan’s legacy,” such as former house majority leader Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert, current speaker of the house.

“I believe that Utah is facing the choice between a follower and a leader this year,” Olsen said. “The problem is the people that congressman Bishop has chosen to follow.”

Bishop avoided responding to Olsen’s statements about his following “corrupt” Republican Party leaders during a rebuttal period.

“Let’s just say whatever and go on to the questions; I think that would be far more profitable,” Bishop said.

Bishop later told The Daily Utah Chronicle that he considers it a “stretch” to call Hastert corrupt and that he votes his conscience despite the party line.

“I vote with the Republican Party when I think they’re accurate, and I vote with the Democratic Party when I think they’re accurate-they’re just not very accurate,” Bishop said.

Bishop said during the debate that, although Olsen claims to be a conservative Democrat, if he were elected and Democrats were to win a majority in the House, party leaders would compel him to vote for current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the house.

“The problem is, if he were elected, he would be voting for Nancy Pelosi as speaker-you have to or they would cut the knees out of you,” Bishop said.

Bishop said Pelosi is an extreme liberal and called her Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson “with an attitude.”

Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute, said the candidates’ attempts to bring national partisan politics into the race will have little effect. He said Bishop is dominating the race by almost 30 percentage points.

“My experience is that the vast majority of voters never process it that far,” Jowers said.

Patrick Reimherr, a sophomore economics major, said that while he mostly agrees with Olsen, he thinks Bishop was the better debater.

“In terms of style, Bishop won,” Reimherr said. “He knows how to handle more controversial issues.”

Kim Peterson

Candidate Steve Olsen emphasizes his background in ingenuity during a debate with Congressman Rob Bishop in the Hinckley Institute of Politics on Monday.

Kim Peterson

Congressman Rob Bishop responds to a question about the ineptitude of the current Congress in a debate with Candidate Steve Olsen on Monday in the Hinckley Institute of Politics.