The debate about whether gubernatorial candidates will debate has taken yet another twist the third in the past week.
Independent candidate Merrill Cook is blasting Gov. Norm Bangerter's campaign manager for saying Bangerter will debate Cook only if the other four minor party and independent candidates are present at the same time."If you look at the polls, I have 50 times the support of all those other candidates combined. It's not fair that they try to cast me in the same light as those candidates," he said. "For debates to be meaningful, the candidates involved need to meet some threshold of support."
He added, "Bangerter and (Democrat Ted) Wilson have also made statements against the proposed tax (reform) initiatives. I'm the only major candidate supporting them. With that, I should be in the debates."
A recent Deseret News/KSL poll showed 6 percent of those surveyed support Cook, compared to 27 percent supporting Bangerter and 52 percent supporting Wilson. Other minor party candidates and independents Libertarian Kitty Burton, independent Mearle Marsh II and American Party candidates Arly H. Pedersen and Lawrence Ray Topham attracted only 1 percent support among them.
In other development in the "debate debate" last week, Cook also attacked Bangerter for failing to show up and debate him at a scheduled joint appearance before the Home Builders of Greater Salt Lake.
David Buhler, Bangerter's campaign manager, said because of mixed-up communications, Bangerter's campaign did not realize Cook was scheduled to speak at that same meeting so Bangerter sent an aide to speak in his stead.
Then later last week, Buhler accused Wilson of chickening out of a debate with Bangerter before that same home builders group.
When Buhler read a quote from Wilson that he would like to debate "whenever our mutual schedules will allow," Buhler offered to have Bangerter debate Wilson during a home builder's meeting on May 25 when Wilson was already scheduled to talk there.
Rob Jolley, Wilson's campaign manager, said Bangerter was simply trying to intrude on a speaking engagement that Wilson had scheduled for months, and Wilson wanted the same opportunity Bangerter already had to explain his views to the group in a speech before being forced into a debate.
Despite the continuing debate about the debates, all candidates say they hope to debate their opponents several times in the many months before the election.