TORRINGTON — The three GOP candidates battling to replace U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty showed a unified front on immigration, gun violence and most of the other major campaign issues during their first debate last week.

The differences came on term limits, on whether the state’s community colleges should be consolidated and the extent to which the next person to represent Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District should fight for government money to train workers for manufacturing jobs.

“In the fifth district, our unemployment rate is at 10.5 percent, and one way to solve that problem is to be sure the appropriate funds are being funneled to Connecticut for workforce development, education and training,” said Watertown businessman Rich Dupont, one of three Republicans running in the Aug. 14 primary.

Ruby Corby O’Neill, a retired psychology professor from Southbury, said trying to solve problems with government money was what career politicians did.

“We rank 49th out of 50 states in job growth,” O’Neill said. “The majority of jobs are not going to be in manufacturing, but in the service sector.”

Former Meriden Mayor Manny Santos, who earned the GOP endorsement at the party’s convention in May, said the best roadmap to economic prosperity was President Donald Trump’s.

“The tax cut at the end of last year gave companies the ability to bring money back to the U.S. that they were keeping off shore,” Santos said. “We are dead last in almost everything including our ability to create manufacturing jobs, and that is mainly due to regulations.”

Santos, O’Neill and Dupont also took questions about the economy, foreign policy, health care, welfare reform and border security during the one-hour debate at Torrington City Hall.

Democrats have their own primary battle to replace Esty, a three-term Democrat who dropped her re-election plans after admitting she covered up an office abuse scandal.

Former longtime Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman is facing a primary challenge from a former star teacher from Waterbury named Jahana Hayes. Two Democratic primary debates are planned in July.

During last Monday night’s Republican debate, O’Neill disagreed with her opponents that consolidating the state’s community colleges was a good idea, saying it would destroy essential relationships that form a bridge to adult independence. She also disagreed with Santos and Dupont that term limits for Congress was a priority.

“We need to prevent the career politicians who think they’re entertainers who go to Washington to have press conferences and put their faces out there, but we have to give people enough time to get the job done,” O’Neill said. “We have to have some continuity there.”

On other major issues, O’Neill stood firm with her opponents on support for the Second Amendment, on Trump’s diplomatic and economic initiatives, on the need to scrap the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare and on the importance of enforcing immigration laws. 203-731-3342