Saturday, May 19, 2012

Should Senator Hatch and His Primary Challenger Dan Liljenquist have Multiple Debates?

debateLocally, there have been a lot of discussions lately regarding whether or not the two primary candidates for one of Utah’s two Senate seats should have multiple debates prior to the primary election. The sitting Senator has agreed to one radio debate sometime the week before the election sometime between 9 AM and 12 PM. There has been a lot of energetic discussion on Facebook and in other online forums. I think much of the dialog misses the major point entirely.

I sent a short letter to the editor of Deseret News today on the subject. Not sure if it will be published so I thought I’d share it with you. But before that let me share a sampling of the online commentary so you can get a feel for the passion on both sides.:

  • I don't think he does well in any debate, let alone a TV debate. The campaign is not dumb and they realize it. There really is no incentive for them to debate on TV as it almost always helps the challengers in the election.
  • I think it is lose-lose for Hatch to debate as it is for any incumbent who is being challenged by a relative unknown. That is politics 101 stuff there.
  • Senator Hatch is still a sitting Senator and the Senate of the United States is in session. He has very limited time to be back in the district before the primary. He has debated Dan Liljenquist two times before, albeit with Chris Herrod on stage [these were debates before the party convention attended mostly be delegates – the 1st debate in Draper can be viewed online]
  • Like I said before it is political folly to give Dan free face time. Again, politics 101 here. It's in Hatch’s best interest to not debate so I will not begrudge his team for working towards that goal. It is in Dan’s best interest to get debates so his team is doing what they can to raise hell about Hatch not debating.
  • How does speaking at a debate differ from speaking at a convention when you get down to it? It's really all just talking points anyway. If a person makes their decision based solely on seeing someone speak, be it a convention speech or a debate, and I am not saying you do, then I would consider that person a low information voter. Or ignorant.
  • Senator Hatch has been in office 36 years. You can look up every vote he has ever taken online, he posts policy stances to social media, he has a Senate website and a campaign website, Federal and Campaign staff to tell you where he stands, he hosts town halls and visited 22 County Conventions, he makes himself very available to speak with constituents and he has had two online debates already with a third one coming before the primary. Dan wanting more debates is a publicity stunt to get his name out there. He wants TV debates because most people have no idea who he is or what he looks like.
  • The point of more debates is to easily give the voters a way to distinguish between the two candidates. People are lazy when it comes to learning about candidates in general and want an easy way to educate themselves. Televising makes it much easier for many of them to watch it.
  • Again, you don't need to have a debate to be informed. If folks can't pop the TV nipple out of their mouths long enough to do their homework then why should Hatch or anyone else go out of their way to spoon feed it to them?...and I can completely understand why Hatch would not want to cater to, again, the lowest common denominator.
  • Senator Hatch likely has almost all of the uniformed voters on his side.
  • It isn't Senator Hatch's job to help Dan Liljenquist get his policy stances and credentials out to the masses.
  • We have nothing to hide. We want voters to look at Senator Hatch's record and decide, not rely on sound bites in a debate that will have prepared responses that were tested in focus groups.
  • Response to above: "We want voters to make decisions based solely on commercials that only the best banking PAC money can buy, rather than having to see my candidate have to explain his record in person."
    There, fixed it for you.

Here’s my letter:

After reading countless online comments on why Senator Hatch should or should not agree to multiple debates I’m saddened. For me the issue is not about the two candidates and what strategies will ensure that one or the other wins the nomination. It is about the voters, the constituents, the people these candidates will serve and what the candidates can do to help us make a good decision.

I believe candidates have a moral obligation to help ensure we, the voters, make the most informed decision possible. Some supporters seem to feel that it is about money, name recognition, not helping the other guy … . Their attitude seems to say: “We need to win at all costs.” Win what? The right to represent the very voters you have done a disservice to by minimizing their interactions with your candidate. I say let the candidates stand side-by-side, answer the same questions, let us watch their interactions and include this information in our decision making process. Then let the best man win. After all this is about finding the best representative for Utah. Or is it?


  1. This is a great perspective! I think you hit the issue right on the head. When all is said and done it is about representing "we the people" and not a continuation of political games in order to save/gain a seat.

    Thank you for getting down to what the real issue is.

  2. Your last paragraph nails it. This election is of such importance to Utah and the United States that it is worth sacrificing my health for this cause. Senator Hatch is always said to be a good guy and yet here I am 60 hours into a hunger strike and nothing. Do the right thing Senator Hatch. McKay Christensen

  3. Thanks McKay. I hope you are drinking something healthy because unfortunately I don't think the Senator will agree to a TV debate until his campaign feels that enough of his supporters have early voted to ensure that the nomination is his. Then he will magnanimously find the time.

  4. Deseret News published my letter in the Tuesday May 22dn edition (


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