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The Utah Debate Commission has never done a state auditor debate. Why is that?

A lectern bearing the logo of the Utah Debate Commission during a congressional debate held in Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2022.
Asher Swan
Southern Utah University, pool
A lectern bearing the logo of the Utah Debate Commission during a congressional debate held in Cedar City, Utah, Oct. 14, 2022.

The Utah Debate Commission will host six debates ahead of the June 25 Republican primary election. But there is one race that won’t make it onto the stage: state auditor.

“I feel really, really frustrated with that. It's a constitutional office and it's important,” said candidate and Deputy State Auditor Tina Cannon. “It deserves the attention and the education to the public over what we do and how we keep government accountable.”

The Utah State Auditor’s Office is tasked with ensuring more than 1,800 government entities are complying with state law and using taxpayer dollars appropriately. But it isn’t a flashy race that is known for garnering much attention.

“They've never done a debate for State Auditor’s Office,” said Ricky Hatch, Weber County Auditor and Cannon’s primary opponent. “I think it's a good idea, but I just assumed that that was not going to happen because it never has.”

A lot of the other races, like the governor and U.S. Senate, focus on “identifying and establishing policy and executing,” Hatch said, but the auditor’s office is one of the only elected positions that “plays a crucial role in the area of oversight and accountability and responsibility.”

To him, “it makes sense that you would talk about that.”

Utah Debate Commission 2024 GOP Primary Debate Schedule

  • 2nd Congressional District: Monday, June 10, 2024, at 10 a.m.
  • 1st Congressional District: Monday, June 10, 2024, at 2 p.m.
  • U.S. Senate: Monday, June 10, 2024, at 6 pm.
  • Utah Attorney General: Tuesday, June 11, 2024, at 2 p.m.
  • Utah Governor: Tuesday, June 11, 2024, at 6 p.m.
  • 3rd Congressional District: Wednesday, June 12, 2024, at 6 p.m.

    Note: KUER will have live video streaming coverage of all the debates at The governor’s debate on June 11 will be aired live on the radio, find a station near you.

Becky Edwards, co-chair of the debate commission, said the focus this election cycle “has been to build on the races that we have traditionally covered in primaries,” which has not included the auditor’s race. Hatch was correct when he noted that the commission has never hosted an auditor’s debate since the organization was established in 2013. Within the last 64 years, there has only been a primary race for auditor in 2012 and 1964. They also haven’t hosted a Utah State Treasurer debate.

She added the commission is being “cognizant of the limited resources” their media partners, who donated space and equipment to house the debates, have. There is also a small pot of state money as the Legislature allocated $65,000 to the commission in this fiscal year with the intent to host both general and primary debates. That funding changes with Utah’s next budget year, which begins on July 1, to a one-time allocation of $225,000.

Edwards said it is important to educate the public about what the auditor’s office does and how it impacts the lives of everyday Utahns, especially because part of the commission’s goal is to “increase civic engagement.”

“Part of how you do that is to make issues relevant to people and make it something that people can see, ‘Oh, that does matter in my life. This is why I should care about this office. That's why the debates matter.”

That’s a point both candidates and Edwards can agree on as to the commission’s mission. Even so, it strikes Cannon as a missed opportunity.

“I think this is a failure to educate the public, and that's what I would like to see them [the debate commission] remedy,” she said. If this is just truly a lack of interest, then there needs to be more education of the public over why the State Auditor is an independently elected position in the state.”

Edwards said the commission will think about adding an auditor’s debate in the future but it’s too late for the commission to organize anything before the GOP primary. It will also be worth discussing, she said, if there should be one ahead of the general election which would include Democratic and Constitution Party candidates.

“We've missed this and we need to have this on the table going forward,” Edwards said. “This is great to know that there's a lot of folks who care about this, and we'll absolutely consider it going forward.”

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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