Gov. Spencer Cox, challenger Phil Lyman try to differentiate during ‘tame’ GOP debate

Jun 12, 2024, 5:00 AM

governor spencer and rep phil lyman shown, lyman is calling the signatures from cox's campaign into...

Utah Rep. Phil Lyman speaks as he debates with incumbent Gov. Spencer Cox during Utah's gubernatorial GOP primary debate held at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. (Isaac Hale/Deseret News)

(Isaac Hale/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and state Rep. Phil Lyman, a Republican gubernatorial challenger, presented differing views on state involvement in fixing the affordable housing crisis and on future Olympic Games in the state during a primary debate in Salt Lake City Tuesday evening.

Though Lyman has developed a reputation as a firebrand on social media and has constantly attacked Cox throughout the campaign, the hourlong discussion was largely focused on policy — something each candidate commented on after the fact, with Lyman describing it as “a little bit tame” and Cox saying it was “unbelievably boring.”

Tempers flare in final minute of Utah Senate debate

But both implied that was a good thing, as they were able to focus on issues. The two were mostly aligned on a majority of issues, from public lands to a question on whether the state should eliminate the state income tax — both said “yes” to the latter.

Olympics and stadiums

One of the biggest differences came early on in the debate, when they were asked what the state’s financial responsibility should be for a potential 2034 Winter Olympic Games.

“This is the easiest question we’ll get all night,” Cox said. “Utah’s financial responsibility should be zero, and it will be zero.”

The governor went on to tout the Games as an “incredible opportunity for our state.” He said the cost will be carried by advertisers and sponsorships. “It’s not going to cost the taxpayers a single penny, and we should be proud of that.”

Lyman, on the other hand, was less enthused by the return of the Olympics. He said the 2002 games presented an “elite economy,” where “a few get to participate, and the rest get to be spectators.” He said the games would create a “tremendous cost” to the state. “If you took a poll, people wouldn’t be excited,” he said.

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Gov. Spencer Cox, challenger Phil Lyman try to differentiate during ‘tame’ GOP debate