The Utah Debate Commission hosted the four Republican candidates vying to represent the party in Utah’s Gubernatorial elections. The four candidates participated in a debate at the University of Utah on Monday evening.
At the debate candidates were asked about how the state has fared during the COVID-19 pandemic. Current Lt. Governor Spencer Cox shared that his leadership helped the state during the crisis.
“We were one of only seven states that didn't have a statewide shutdown,’ Cox said. “A recent study came out that showed that there were 45 states who had more serious restrictions on the economy and on the liberties of people than the state of Utah. We were in the bottom five in that category. You've heard a lot about Dr. Fauci and President Trump disagreeing on things. One of the things they both agree on and have said publicly is that the state of Utah has done a tremendous job in managing this response. Again not just economically, but from a health standpoint as well. To have one of the lowest hospitalization rates in the country, to have one of the lowest mortality rates in the country.”
Former Governor Jon Huntsman said there was mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis in the state.
“So what does that do,” Huntsman asked? “It leads to 100 million dollar, no transparency, deals. That still have not been properly explained. Part of being a leader, I know because I've been governor of this great state, is standing up and taking responsibility when you screw up. That's what we've had. So, what does it lead then to? It leads to a lack of trust in our institutions, so when people see that happening, they trust less and less in our elected officials and less and less in our process. There hasn’t been a fair hearing on this. No one has stood up and taken responsibility for it. I don't know why, but we politicized the pandemic, and I think that was our mistake.”
Candidates were asked what can be done to improve public education in the state. Former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes shared his thoughts.
“Let me just tell you real quickly. If any candidate on this stage is going to tell you that we're walking into a year where we're going to increase funding, you're being sold ice cream,” Hughes continued. “You're not being told the truth. Here's my fear. If you don't have commerce occurring, you don't have tax collection. If we don't get back to work and we don't see people making a living you're not going to have the dollars that are being collected for our income tax which is dedicated to our public schools. Were going to see massive shortfalls. If we take federal funds because we can't pay the bills, that's how you get Common Core. That's how you get some of these federal mandates, that in the long run, hurt our education system.”
The candidates were also asked about the housing shortage in the state. Former GOP Chair Thomas Wright said the issue can be addressed with creative thinking.
“We built big box retailers for many years in our country,” Wright explained. “This was before Amazon. The parking lots were probably already too big even back then. Now post pandemic, post Amazon, they’re even bigger than they need to be. Cities could look at those and say these are on main arteries. These are close to where people are working. Let's give a zoning variance for the owner of that land to build some affordable housing. That's right where it needs to be. It will reduce congestion, it will make the quality of life go up. We need to think about this in an innovative way, but my three opponents have had their chance. They’ve held the highest three offices in the land.”
The entire debate can be found here.
Utah’s Primary Election is June 30.
The Democratic Party will not have a primary debate as Christopher Peterson won the nomination at the state convention.