Should More Candidates be Included in the Utah Debates?

Utah Debate Commission Logo 01The Republicans and Democrats in this week’s “Political Insiders” survey think the current requirements for participating in the Utah Debate Commission debates this fall are just fine, while our readers say more candidates should be included.

Right now, if a candidate hits’ 10% in the Debate Commission’s independent poll, they will be incorporated on the debate stage. If the surveys of the major races in the state are any indicator, the only candidate that has a reasonable shot at being included on the stage is Libertarian Attorney General nominee Andrew McCullough, who is currently polling around 7% according to

68% of the Republicans and Democrats who took our survey said that 10% threshold for inclusion was a fair one, while about a third of our readers agreed.

On the other hand, 55% of our readers felt more candidates should be included in the debates, while just 18% of Republicans and 21% of Democrats feel that way.

There was hardly any support for raising the bar for candidates to get in the debates. That’s probably a good idea because most of the Democratic candidates in our surveys were under 30% support.


Selected anonymous comments:

“I’m surprised that Democrats can even get 10% in some races here in Utah.”

“Ten percent seems a good compromise between allowing nobody and allowing only candidates from the major parties. Leave things as they are.”

“The debate was over in June. There shouldn’t be a debate if a candidate is polling 30% above their opponent – waste of time.”

“I think it is important to remember that third party candidates are not going to win. Our goal with debates – especially those organized by the debate commission – should be to make the debates as substantive as possible. There are already so few opportunity to get candidates to have substantive conversations in a public forum. We have a bipartisan electoral system, and until that is changed, we should not invite candidates who cannot win to join the debate stage.”

“There is a fine line between allowing legit candidates and clowns into a debate. THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH!”

“The bigger issue isn’t the threshold; it is that they are only holding statewide candidate debates. Legislative races are far more impactful on what happens in the state. The Debate Commission should hold debates in competitive Legislative races and competitive county races for the largest counties (SL, Weber, Utah).”

“The Utah Debate Commission should require primary debates. The races are over already.”

“If you struggle to reach 10% at this late stage, you aren’t viable in any local election.”

“Any legitimate candidate should be able to break 10% without even trying. There is NO reason to waste time on “also ran” candidates.”

“They need to hold primary debates. If they don’t do that it doesn’t matter how many show up because the general election is a foregone conclusion for almost every race.”

“Diversity of perspectives in debates is will likely produce better-informed voters.”

“Ten percent is honestly a little low. If you are not polling at 20 percent, you are very unlikely to win even with a strong debate performance.”

“All candidates that met the requirements to get on the Utah ballot for their respective races should be allowed to debate.”

“If a person can cross all the hurdles to be on the ballot, then they should be included in the debates. Even if it seems evident they will not win; their inclusion can improve the discussion in the debate with a greater variety of opinion and policy positions.”

“It is good for the voters to know what as many of the candidates stand for as they can (as well as seeing if they can think on their feet). All that being said: Let’s have a real debate. I can remember going to debate tournaments while I was in high school. There were some real skill and preparation involved. I saw strategy, boxing one’s opponent into a corner, logic saving the day, and proving one’s point of with style and panache. I saw real virtuosity and high entertainment. There was even knowledge passed back and forth. Why can’t our political candidates do as well as high school debaters? The Utah Debate Commission needs to plan a real “debate” not a drama fest.”

“Any candidate who has met the threshold set forth by the LG’s office to be on the NOV ballot should be included… Especially when almost 40% of registered Utah voters are Unaffiliated! At the very least, Unaffiliated candidates should be present with Republicans and Democrats. A polling threshold would only be needed if there were say 17 election candidates for one office!”

“Hearing all viewpoints is important, but the debates are primarily to help voters distinguish between viable candidates for this election. No candidate with less than 10% in the polls is going to pull some miracle because of their debate performance. The minor party candidates will have to continue to get their messages out in other ways until they resonate with more voters.”