Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson says he and Gov. Norm Bangerter should not debate each other until later this summer, if and when they each formally win their party nominations.
Bangerter's campaign manager, David Buhler, responds that Wilson is chickening out of debates because they would show that Bangerter's views are closer to those of most Utahns, and would cause Bangerter to rise in the polls. Wilson has led Bangerter in opinion polls for more than a year.After a heated debate about whether to debate during the past two weeks, Wilson wrote Bangerter saying his schedule prevents debates until later this summer, and suggesting that "we respect the political process and wait until we have secured the nominations of our respective parties."
Both Bangerter and Wilson face challenges within their parties, although those challenges appear weak.
Wilson faces David E. Hewitt, an Orem physician, while Bangerter faces Dean Samuelson, a Midvale teacher. Candidates who receive 70 percent of delegate votes at state party conventions next month automatically become the nominee. Otherwise, they face a Sept. 13 primary election.
Buhler said Wilson's apparent worry that he and Bangerter may not be nominated is "laughable," and questioned whether Wilson's schedule is so tight that debates are not possible. "His schedule cannot be any more difficult than the governor's. He still works 60 hours a week."
Wilson's letter, in response to Bangerter's request for at least 25 joint appearances from May to November, said, ". . . an early commencement of debates would contribute to a campaign season that has already grown too long."
Wilson said that once each candidate is nominated, "I will have my campaign staff contact your staff and other qualified candidates for governor so that we can schedule a series of debates throughout the state."
Bangerter's campaign manager blasted Wilson's letter, saying "Wilson's camp is afraid that in the heat of a debate with the governor, Ted's Teflon will start flaking off."
Buhler added, "There are big differences between Norm Bangerter and Ted Wilson, and when people realize those differences, Bangerter will go up in the polls and Wilson will go down. The quickest way to make those differences known is through a debate."