US Rep. Matheson and Philpot square off

ST. GEORGE – In the only debate held this campaign season between Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson and his challenger Morgan Philpot, the two candidates squared off today in front of a largely conservative audience in Southern Utah.
 
Hosted by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce Community Action Committee, the 90-minute debate was moderated by Terri Draper, chairman of the committee. From issues on illegal immigration to the economy, Draper posed Matheson and Philpot five questions previously prepared by the committee. Neither candidate had the advantage of reviewing the questions before the debate. Draper also asked questions written by audience members during the last 20 minutes of the debate.
  
Matheson, the only Utah Democratic Congressman represents the 2nd District, which sprawls from Salt Lake City to the more rural Arizona border, is seeking reelection for his sixth term, however, polls show Philpot running just 10 points behind him as Utah Republicans have ran an aggressive campaign this year trying to align Matheson with the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
 
“This year, 86 percent of Washington D.C. is up for reelection. We can literally take our country back in one day,” Philpot said.
 
When asked later his response to the audience’s reaction and the claim he votes right along side Speaker Pelosi, Matheson shrugged his shoulders and smiled.
 
“Well what can I say? There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Matheson said. “And my voting record is public record. The healthcare bill, I voted no all three times it came up, even though there are those who want to maintain I didn’t.”
 
Both candidates had five minutes to give an opening statement. In Matheson’s remarks he aligned himself with audience members by focusing mainly on his long-term residency in Southern Utah and the values he was raised with growing up here.  
 
“The red sands of Southern Utah don’t just run in the creases of my boots but in my soul,” Matheson said, referring to how important Southern Utah is to him.
 
Philpot used the time he had to discuss the federal debt of $14 trillion dollars and other concerns he felt were pressing to the conservative constituency in front of him.
 
“In 75 years, the congressional budget will only be able to afford four things; social security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt,” Philpot said.
 
Philpot went on to reiterate how unacceptable that was, words he used throughout the debate as he discussed the policies and national debt incurred he maintains by the present-day Congress and administration.
 
On many issues, the two candidates repeatedly said they would vote almost the same. However, one of the big differences brought to light was the issue of a National Sales Tax, often referred to as a Fair Tax. At one point the debate became heated as Matheson continued to put Philpot on the spot by stating he had publically supported the tax.
 
Philpot said he only supported the tax if the income tax was entirely abolished. But Matheson warned the audience Americans would be taxed at 23 percent for everything they purchased. Philpot however, came back saying he never said he would support a 23 percent tax.
 
Matheson talked about local issues and spoke of various projections, including the St. George airport and the Dinosaur Museum. He also reiterated he favors tax cuts and is against health care reform.
 
“I am not a rubber stamp for party leadership,” Matheson said.
 
Philpot is a former state lawmaker and spent one term as the vice-chairman of the Utah Republican Party. He has run this election without the financial support of the National Republican Party but says he opted to keep the money for his campaign from the people and businesses in Utah.
 
 Federal Election Commission reports show Philpot has spent approximately $165,000 during this election and Matheson has more than $2 million.

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