Some barbs in 3rd Congressional District GOP debate

PROVO — There were a few sharp exchanges in Friday’s debate between the three candidates in the 3rd Congressional District GOP primary, mostly aimed at the frontrunner, Provo Mayor John Curtis.

After the candidates had given mostly similar responses to a range of questions, Tanner Ainge brought up Curtis’ past as a Democrat when asked about bridging the partisan divide in Washington, D.C.

“I’m a little bit concerned about my opponent, John Curtis, because while I think it’s important to work together, I don’t think you actually have to switch sides,” Ainge, an Alpine lawyer, said to a mix of boos and applause.

Curtis responded by saying he “once had a fling on the dark side,” just as President Donald Trump, former President Ronald Reagan and the former congressman from the district, Jason Chaffetz had as one-time Democrats.

“That was 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back. Some people will never forgive me for that,” Curtis told the audience gathered for the debate sponsored by the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Salt Lake Tribune.

Former state lawmaker Chris Herrod, who like Ainge, lags behind Curtis in polling, didn’t initially address the issue, but later said he agreed with Ainge, and brought up Provo’s new bus rapid transit line, known as BRT.

“I am concerned when people say they are conservative, but their actions are not. It’s a problem,” Herrod said.

Curtis’ campaign was ready with copies for reporters of a statement made by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert Thursday about having been “a little off-putted by the negative campaigning” in the race. Herbert has endorsed Curtis.

Then Curtis said Herrod had supported tax increases while serving in the Utah House, including a quarter-cent hike for…

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