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3rd District, Senate debates are coming — but not all candidates

By Kelcie Hartley - | May 27, 2022
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John Curtis addresses delegates during the Utah County GOP Convention at Cedar Hills High School on April 9, 2022.
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Chris Herrod addresses delegates during the Utah County GOP Convention at Cedar Hills High School on April 9, 2022.
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Burgess Owens addresses delegates during the Utah County GOP Convention at Cedar Hills High School on April 9, 2022.
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Jake Hunsaker addresses delegates during the Utah County GOP Convention at Cedar Hills High School on April 9, 2022.

Candidates for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, incumbent John Curtis and challenger Chris Herrod, are attending the Friday night debate sponsored by the Utah Republican Party. The debate is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at Brigham Young University.

The Utah GOP is also hosting a U.S. Senate debate with incumbent Mike Lee and challengers Ally Isom and Becky Edwards on Wednesday, June 1, at 6 p.m. at a location not yet determined. The senatorial debate was scheduled at the same time and date as another 3rd District debate moderated by Natalie Gochnour and hosted by the Utah Debate Commission. The commission’s 4th District debate is also set for June 1, moderated by Jason Perry, at 1 p.m.

According to Adrielle Herring, Curtis’ campaign manager, the current U.S. representative will not be attending the June 1 debate, as he’s scheduled to be out of the country.

Due to out-of-state travel, Curtis was not available to respond to requests for comment.

Herrod said it is unfortunate that Curtis won’t be attending the debate, but he’s eager to address the public.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to let people know who I am, my past experiences and why I’m running,” he said. “For me, I think it’ll be a good experience. It’ll be the one time I get to be in front of everyone on a televised event.”

Without the incumbent present, Herrod believes the atmosphere at the debate will be more relaxed.

“There won’t be going back and forth and things like that,” he said. “For me it’s kind of a question-and-answer period, and that’s how I will approach it. I think it’s probably less stressful than a debate.

“I think this helps the challenger more than the incumbent because they haven’t had as much exposure. It all depends on how well I do. If I answer questions coherently and they are fair questions, I think it will help me, but I could always make a mistake and hurt the campaign as well. That’s why sometimes incumbents don’t participate in as many debates.”

Incumbent Burgess Owens’ participation in the 4th District event is also in question. Challenger Jake Hunsaker said the incumbent is not planning on participating in the debate. Owens and his office did not respond to requests for comment and confirmation of his attendance in the debate.

“I’m committed to attending the debate,” Hunsaker said. “I think debates are a critical piece of our democratic elections process. It’s an opportunity for me to share my vision of how we can make life better for Utahns. I think it’s very unfortunate that my opponent is either afraid of or unwilling to participate in this debate for whatever reason. He’s also declined to participate in other debates outside of this one. We hold out hope that he will change his mind because I believe every elected official owes it to their voters to be transparent and accessible.”

If Owens doesn’t attend, Hunsaker said he sees this as an opportunity to show voters he isn’t afraid of transparency or answering tough questions. He alleged that Owens may be pulling a political tactic to avoid answering tough questions and potentially upsetting voters.

“Owens knows, as so many career politicians do, that shielding themselves from voters is ultimately something that helps in elections,” Hunsaker said. “If you don’t show up, it means you don’t have to upset anyone. Unfortunately, they have this figured out, which is why they have determined it’s beneath them to show up and talk with their opponents. I think that is unfortunate.”

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