Gov. Gary Herbert and his Democratic challenger, Peter Cooke, will engage in three debates between now and Election Day, the campaigns announced Wednesday.
Herbert said the debates are crucial to fostering an informed electorate, but Cooke said it is unfortunate there couldn’t have been more. Cooke had previously pushed for seven debates between the two.
The first debate, hosted by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, will be held Sept. 14, moderated by KSL radio’s Doug Wright, and will be broadcast on the station.
The second, hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, will be held Oct. 4. And the final meeting will be a week later, on Oct. 11, hosted by VoteUtah and broadcast on KUED television and other public radio and television stations around the state.
Cooke said other television stations, universities and civic groups had offered to host debates, but Herbert had declined.
“The state is not on solid economic footing, and as I meet with people on the campaign trail they express real concerns about the direction the current administration has taken us regarding education, ethics reform, health care policies and lands, and how pocketbook issues are affecting their families,” Cooke said.
Herbert said Utah’s economy is among the strongest in the nation, “and we are investing in the areas that will strengthen our quality of life. I look forward to a robust and civilized discussion of the issues that matter most to Utahns.”
Cooke’s campaign manager, Mary Bishop, said that the campaign would have preferred to have more debates broadcast more widely so voters can hear the candidates. “Regrettably, that won’t happen this year,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell will also debate Cooke’s running mate, Vince Rampton, at Utah State University on Oct. 31.