U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney defended himself at a debate Tuesday from attacks on his status as a recent Utah transplant who has previously criticized President Donald Trump.
Both Mitt Romney and his opponent for a Utah Senate seat, Mike Kennedy, are aligning themselves with President Donald Trump on several issues, though they're clashing over one of Romney's outspoken tweets about Pastor Robert Jeffress.
"When he is labeling President Trump as a phony and as a fraud and Jeffress as a bigot, I don't see those as productive steps in building relationships," Kennedy said.
State lawmaker Kennedy said during a debate Tuesday that Romney's past critiques of Trump and a pastor he called a religious bigot show he doesn't work well with others. Romney said he calls things like he sees them and strongly defended the tweet about the pastor.
"This is a guy who said that Mormonism is a cult, that it is a hearsay from the pit of hell,” Romney responded. “When people express bigotry they ought to be called out for it."
The two men also differed on banning bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic fully automatic ones. Romney supports the ban and more.
"Make sure we have an armed person or people at the school or nearby,” he said. “Number two, limit the access, perhaps put in place magnetometers in certain circumstances. Number three, allow there to be an anonymous way to contact authorities if you are worried that someone represents a danger. And finally, we ought to have an intervention individual or team that can step in when we have an individual who represents that kind of threat."
Kennedy says he wants to focus on mental health.
"When it comes to banning things like bump stocks, it doesn't work. So I don't believe that that is going to be a useful step,” Kennedy said. “We need to augment our access to psychology and psychiatry. We need better mental health services available. I want to make sure that our actions actually work. Which is why we created the Utah School Safety Commission because what we need are community-based solutions."
Romney and Kennedy are both vying for the seat open with the retirement of Sen. Orrin Hatch after 40 years.
Primary elections happen on June 26th. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Jenny Wilson in November.