USA Today journalist Susan Page will moderate vice presidential debate in Utah

(AP file photos) Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Calif. Sen. Kamala Harris. The two will participate in the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah on Oct. 7.

Next month’s vice presidential debate, which will be held Oct. 7 in Utah at Kingsbury Hall, will be moderated by USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday.

The Commission said the 90-minute debate between Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. Each candidate will have two minutes to respond to an opening question and the moderator will use the rest of the time for a “deeper discussion” of each topic.

“We are grateful to these experienced journalists, who will help ensure that the general election presidential debates continue to serve their unique educational purpose of helping the public learn about the candidates,” the commission co-chairs said in a news release announcing the moderators. “Each individual brings great professionalism to moderating and understands that the purpose of the 2020 debate formats is to facilitate in-depth discussion of major topics.”

Page, in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune, called the debates “a crucial part of making our democracy work” and said she was “honored to participate.”

Moderators for the other debates are:

  • Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace will moderate the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Steve Scully, a senior executive producer and political editor with C-SPAN Networks, will moderate the second presidential debate on Oct. 15 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Florida.

  • Kristen Welker, a White House correspondent and co-anchor of Weekend TODAY with NBC News, will moderate the third and final presidential debate on Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

Utah is the only Western state to hold a debate leading up to November’s election, and October’s event will mark the first time a national debate will be held in the Beehive State.

The Commission on Presidential Debates said during a July briefing that the Utah debate would go on as scheduled but that it would feature a much smaller live audience than originally planned in an effort to allow for social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is expected to have no more than 150 to 200 people on site, with an estimated 100 million viewers who will tune in from home.

The University of Utah, which is donating the use of its facilities for the debate, said earlier this summer that one of the most important elements of the debate will be student involvement, “even if it’s remotely.”

“This is an important part of the democratic process, and we are building all of this around the opportunity for students in every major to be involved — from our architecture shop to our music shop,” said Jason Perry, chairman of the U.’s Vice President Debate Steering Committee and director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Ahead of the debate, Utah students of all ages, kindergarten through college, have been invited to submit 300-word essays that answer the question “If you could ask the vice-presidential candidates one question, what would you ask and why?”

Winning submissions will be published in The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News and may be submitted to the debate moderator as a potential question for Pence and Harris.

The essays will be judged by individuals from the Utah Debate Commission and the University of Utah. Students must submit their questions at https://debate2020.utah.edu/student-essay-contest/ by Sep. 11.