UTAH

Owens agrees to debate with McDonald in Utah’s 4th District race on one condition

Oct 21, 2022, 3:39 PM | Updated: Oct 25, 2022, 3:53 pm
4th district new debate...
Candidates for Utah's 4th Congressional District: Darlene McDonald and Rep. Burgess Owens. (Photos: left, Utah Democrats, right, U.S. House of Representatives)
(Photos: left, Utah Democrats, right, U.S. House of Representatives)

SALT LAKE CITY — Voters in Utah’s 4th Congressional District learned on Friday that the incumbent, Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) had set up a debate with the Democratic challenger Darlene McDonald. That debate is reportedly scheduled for Friday, Oct. 28.

Later voters learned that Rep. Owens agreed to the debate with at least one stipulation — that a Utah newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune, would not be allowed to participate.

Owens’ stipulation about excluding the Tribune was confirmed to KSL NewsRadio by Jesse Ranney, who said “I can confirm that was the stipulation.”

Hours after the public learned of the new debate plans, Democratic challenger, McDonald, released a statement via Twitter saying her campaign was “uncomfortable” with the exclusion of the Tribune.

“We are uncomfortable with any media being excluded because it gives an opportunity for any or all media in the future to be shut out of a functioning government and thriving democracy,” the statement reads.

Despite their concern, it appears that the McDonald campaign agreed to the debate.

Earlier on Friday, McDonald said the location of the Oct. 28 debate had not yet been announced. It will be moderated by James Curry, a political science professor at the University of Utah.

United Utah candidate excluded

Along with excluding the Tribune, the invitation to debate was not extended to January Walker, the United Utah candidate running for the 4th District seat.  Walker told KSL that news of the debate was disappointing.

“If the roles were reversed and it was Darlene (McDonald) that wasn’t invited, or even Burgess (Owens) that wasn’t invited to a different debate, I would have insisted that they be invited to attend,” Walker said.

Walker speculated that Owens’ campaign was trying to control his environment by not inviting her. Meanwhile, her party, the United Utah Party said they were outraged.

“We are outraged at the fact that Burgess Owens took over the debate forum and uninvited our debate-qualifying candidate,” said Wayne Woodfield, the vice chair of the United Utah Party in an email to KSL NewsRadio.

“It is corrupt, cowardly, and should offend the sensitivities of every Utahn that believes in an open and fair election process.”

Owens did not participate in a 4th District debate on Oct. 12. That debate was sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission and moderated by Lauren Gustus, the executive editor of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Owens said he would not debate on Oct. 12 because of the tie between the moderator and the Salt Lake Tribune, which he has called a ‘racist’ newspaper. 

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Owens agrees to debate with McDonald in Utah’s 4th District race on one condition