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‘Utah Will be in the Spotlight’: Salt Lake City to Host Final 2024 Presidential Debate

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah will host the third and final general presidential debate on Oct. 9, 2024, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday.

The university previously hosted a vice presidential debate in October 2020, between then Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox called the presidential debates “really critical, foundational to our democracy,” when asked about the announcement Monday.

“Obviously it’s a big deal. Utah is proving once again that when there’s a space that’s needed for a big event, a big convening, that we’re at the top of all of those lists, and obviously a place where civic dialogue and discourse can happen,” he told KSL.com on Monday. “We’re very excited. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We’ve obviously had the opportunity with a vice presidential debate before but this time, at the center of what’s likely to be an incredibly divisive election, Utah will play a very major role.”

University of Utah President Taylor Randall said he’s excited by the opportunity for several reasons, saying the debate “puts the state of Utah on the map as a player in the national debate around the future of our country.”

“It’s an incredible way for our citizens to engage in the political process,” he said. “We’re so excited for the experiences that this will provide our students to directly see the political process in motion and how important it is to be engaged throughout your lifetime.”

He praised the university as well as state and local leaders for their handling of the vice presidential debate — which was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic — and said he thinks “our ability to productively work with the national teams to pull off that debate was a key factor in this decision.”

“It will be an honor and a privilege to welcome the presidential candidates to #SLC for a debate about the most important issues affecting our country,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall tweeted. “We have a proven track record for hosting events on a global scale. We’ll be ready again to provide a welcoming environment for the candidates, the audience, and viewers worldwide.”

Randall, Cox, and other state and city leaders officially announced the selection Monday afternoon at the Nancy Peery Marriott Auditorium at Kingsbury Hall. Several quipped about the fly that infamously alighted atop Pence’s head during the 2020 vice presidential debate.

“We’re looking forward this time to hosting the main card without a pandemic and perhaps with fly abatement,” Randall said.

Mendenhall said the state would “welcome a rigorous debate here, flies or no flies.”

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics and a key organizer behind Utah’s bid to host the debate, said the 2020 debate cost the state around $6.5 million, and he expects the 2024 contest to cost around the same. That money will likely be allocated by the Legislature during the upcoming general session.

Cox — who has frequently griped that both major parties are on course to renominate the same candidates from 2016, former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden — said he would like to see two fresh faces take the stage next October, calling the process for nominating candidates “messed up” and “a terrible way to choose.”

The Republican National Committee is considering rule changes that would force candidates seeking the GOP’s nomination to pledge not to participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, according to the Associated Press.

When asked if candidates from both major parties plan to participate, the governor said he can’t speak for either party but is “certainly hopeful that all the candidates would show up.”

“As (Utah Senate President Stuart) Adams said when we were having this conversation: ‘Who doesn’t love Utah? Who wouldn’t want an opportunity to come to Utah in October?'” he said.

Perry said the application process to choose host sites took about six months, and while the commission didn’t provide information about how many cities were vying for selection, he said, “Many want this honor.”

As with many previous debates, students at the U. may be allowed a chance to ask questions of the major party presidential candidates.

The debates offer “the opportunity to hear and see leading candidates address serious issues in a fair and neutral setting,” Commission on Presidential Debates Co-Chairs Frank Fahrenkopf and Antonia Hernández said in a joint statement. “This tradition remains unbroken since 1976. In 2024, students at our four debate sites will help bring another set of historic conversations to audiences here and abroad.”

The debate in Utah will be held at Kingsbury Hall and will be the third and final debate before the 2024 presidential election. Here is the full list of presidential and vice presidential debates for 2024:

  • First presidential debate: Monday, Sept. 16, 2024, at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.
  • Vice presidential debate: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2024, at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.
  • Second presidential debate: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2024, at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia.
  • Third presidential debate: Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2024, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2024.

In addition to announcing the debate locations, the commission announced the criteria for selecting participants, which include that a candidate be eligible for the presidency under the Constitution, have access to the ballot in enough states to have a mathematical chance of winning the Electoral College, and receive at least 15% support from the national electorate according to five national public opinion polls.

Cox — who has consistently pushed for better civil dialogue as the chairman of the National Governors Association — said the debate is a chance for Utah to show that it is “a place where we do still believe in civil discourse and civic responsibility.”

“I’m hopeful that we can continue to set a high watermark,” he said. “Again, we’re not perfect, we always make mistakes, but Utah will be in the spotlight and I’m hoping that will be a positive spotlight for the rest of the nation.”

Source : KSL