The great debates in the governor's race are on - sort of.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson on Friday announced 10 debates he'll attend, but Gov. Norm Bangerter - who wants more debates than that - hasn't decided if he'll attend all of the same debates."We've already accepted most of those Ted has picked. But there are some conflicts," said Dave Buhler, Bangerter's campaign manager.
Wilson said he believes that independent candidate Merrill Cook should be invited to all the debates, and said the sponsors of the debates he's accepted agree Cook will be invited.
"I'll be there. This is wonderful. At least Ted believes in fair play," said Cook, who was excluded from a Utah Farm Bureau debate earlier this month.
Reiterating his previous stand, Buhler said Bangerter prefers that only Wilson be at the debates, "since the reality is only the governor or Wilson will win this race." But Buhler said Bangerter will attend debates regardless of whether Cook - a former Republican whose candidacy harms Bangerter more than Wilson - is there or not.
Buhler said if Wilson's debate list is firm, and if he won't accept more debate invitations, Utahns won't get a full hearing on the race. "The number of the debates he's out lined are far too few and too narrow in base," complained Buhler.
For example, Wilson has accepted only three debates outside Salt Lake City, said Buhler. "We should be debating up and down the state." Wilson accepted a debate at Southern Utah State College in Cedar City and one at the University of Utah. "What about USU and BYU? We should debate there also," said Buhler.
"We've accepted 16 debates so far, including the South Salt Lake Rotary and Lions clubs - home of Wilson's lieutenant governor choice South Salt Lake Mayor Jim Davis. Won't Wilson debate in his own lieutenant governor's town?" asked Buhler.
Wilson said he received more than 50 debate requests, and that the ones he chose are a good cross-section of those requests.
Last spring, Wilson's campaign manager, Rob Jolley, told the Deseret News that Wilson didn't want to debate until after Labor Day, Sept. 5. Wilson disagreed with Jolley at that time, saying he would debate often and sooner.
But when Bangerter challenged Wilson to early debates, Wilson said he wanted to wait until he and Bangerter were formally nominated by their parties in their June conventions. After those conventions, Wilson said people weren't really interested in listening to political campaigning until after Labor Day.
Wilson did accept three joint appearances with Bangerter in June and July. No debates will take place in August. But Bangerter, trailing Wilson in the polls, wanted more debates - up to 25.
If Bangerter doesn't attend a debate Wilson has chosen, Wilson will speak alone or debate Cook, if he attends.
Here is the list of debates Wilson has accepted, with those Bangerter has also already accepted so marked:
Sept. 2, AFL-CIO, 10:30 a.m.; Sept. 14, League of Cities and Towns, 2 p.m. (Bangerter will attend); Sept. 15, Utah Association of Realtors meeting in St. George, 7 p.m. (Bangerter will attend); Oct. 6, KUED and SUSC in Cedar City, 11 a.m. (Bangerter will attend); Salt Lake Ministerial Association, noon; Oct. 25, Salt Lake Rotary Club, noon (Bangerter will attend); Oct. 26, League of Women Voters, 7 p.m. (Bangerter will attend); and Nov. 1, before various Ogden business groups, noon.
Wilson will also accept a debate invitation from the Associated Students of the University of Utah, the date and time to be set later. And Wilson will accept one of several TV or radio stations debate invitations. He'll announce which one later.