SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Debate Commission has announced that their debates prior to the June 28 GOP primary will go on as scheduled next week, but most incumbents will not participate.
The lone exception to that is U.S. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT), here in the 1st Congressional District.
“Congressman Moore plans on participating in the debate organized by the Debate Commission,” according to Caroline Tucker, his press liaison. “He looks forward to communicating why his vision for Utah is the best path forward.”
Moore will participate in a debate scheduled for Thursday, June 2 at 2 p.m. The other participants will be former civilian intelligence officer Andrew Badger and former Morgan County commissioner Tina Cannon.
The moderator for that debate will be Thomas Wright, former Utah Republican Party chair and an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2020.
The Utah Republican Party discouraged its incumbent candidates from participating in the other scheduled events after it failed to reach agreement with the Debate Commission on moderators and questions.
The scheduled debate for Utah’s U.S. Senate seat will take place, without Sen. Mike Lee’s participation, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 2, between former Utah lawmaker Becky Edwards and businesswoman Ally Isom.
The moderator for that debate will be Doug Wilks, the executive editor of the Deseret News.
The moderators for debates in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts will be Grant Burningham, managing editor of the Salt Lake Tribune; Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardiner Policy Center at the University of Utah; and Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, also at the UofU.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such a strong group of moderators for the five debates,” said Erik Nielsen, executive director of the Utah Debate Commission. “They are knowledgeable, professional and impartial.”
Not so, according to GOP Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen. The party has planned alternate debates.
A debate in the 3rd Congressional District is on tap for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 27, at Brigham Young University. U.S. Rep John Curtis (R-UT) and challenger Chris Herrod will attend.
A GOP-hosted debate in the Senate race is slated for Wednesday, June 1 at 6 p.m. Jorgensen said Lee, Edwards and Isom plan to participate.
Alternative debates in the 2nd and 4th district races are pending.
Moore has two good reasons to turn out for the Debate Commission’s scheduled event on June 2.
First of all, the Utah Debate Commission threw the GOP a bone in the selection of Wright as moderator. The party stalwart seems certain to give the incumbent congressman a fair shake on questions.
Secondly, Moore is fighting for his political life.
The embattled Moore made a poor showing at the April 23 Republican nominating convention, where state delegates appeared to reject Moore’s strategy of reaching across the political aisle in favor of a challenger’s fiery rhetoric promising no compromise with Democrats in Congress.
After three rounds of balloting, Badger narrowly missed capturing the nomination with 59.2 percent of the ballots cast as opposed to Moore’s 40.7 percent.
Moore will now face off against Badger and Cannon in the June 28 Republican primary voting.
Cannon had already secured a spot on the primary ballot by collecting signatures.
The debates featuring the 1st Congressional District and Senate races scheduled by the Utah Debate Commission will be broadcast live on KVNU.