Press Release: Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidates For Primary Debate Announced

Press Release: Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidates For Primary Debate Announced

Salt Lake City, UT – Today, the ABU Education Fund and John R. Park Debate Society announced the candidates who have been invited to participate in the Primary Debate for the Salt Lake City Mayoral election. All eight candidates will be invited to participate. Those candidates are: David Garbett, David Ibarra, Erin Mendenhall, Jim Dabakis, Luz Escamilla, Rainer Huck, Richard Goldberger, and Stan Penfold.

“We are excited to see so much energy surrounding this debate,” said Chase Thomas, ABU Education Fund executive director. “We’ve seen passion from the community and from the candidates themselves, and the polling results show that many of the candidates are in a statistical tie. In an effort to make a fair and data-driven decision, we ultimately decided the best way forward was to include all the candidates in our debate.”

The candidates for the June 26th debate were decided, as per the rules established when the debate was announced, by polling. The poll, commissioned by the ABU Education Fund and administered by Public Policy Polling, took place from June 10-12 and surveyed 480 likely voters in Salt Lake City. The polling results, which can be found in the attachment below, show the following results for mayor:

Jim Dabakis27%
Luz Escamilla10%
Stan Penfold8%
David Garbett, David Ibarra, Erin Mendenhall6%
Aaron Johnson2%
Richard Goldberger1%
Rainer HuckN/A
Not sure34%

In light of the margin of error, these polling results reveal there is not a neutral way to differentiate between the candidates as to who would be the fourth candidate to participate. These results leave a forum that includes all candidates as the fairest way to compose the debate field and maximize the opportunity for voters to learn about their options in the upcoming election.

In an effort to allow the candidates to share their views, and also in the interest of a robust and informative debate, the length of the event has been expanded to two hours. For those who cannot attend in person, the debate will be aired live on KCPW radio, as well as streamed online from KCPW’s Facebook page, and shared on the ABU Education Fund and Alliance for a Better Utah’s Facebook page.

Details of the event:

What:Salt Lake City Mayor Primary Debate
Who: The ABU Education Fund and John R. Park Debate Society
When:June 26, 2019 | 6:30-8:30 PM
Where:The City Library Main Branch210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City

*Due to the late nature of Rainer Huck’s filing, and Aaron Johnson’s late exit from the race, these poll results are not completely up-to-date. However, because of the close race revealed by these polls, the presumption is that any candidate would be statistically tied with all but the two highest polling candidates.


The ABU Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing a strong, educational voice by creating resources that advance civic engagement and good governance. For more information, visit their website here.

‘Specter of Trump’ hangs over 3rd Congressional District debate

‘Specter of Trump’ hangs over 3rd Congressional District debate

This article originally appeared at the Deseret News (Link)

SANDY — President Donald Trump may not have been mentioned much during a debate Friday among four of the candidates seeking to fill the vacant 3rd District seat in Congress, but he still may have had an impact.

Both Democrat Kathie Allen and the new United Utah Party’s Jim Bennett brought up the controversial GOP leader several times during the 90-minute debate as a reminder that the Republican in the race, John Curtis, supports the Trump agenda.

The debate, sponsored by the ABU Education Fund and the University of Utah’s John R. Park Debate Society, also included Libertarian Joe Buchman. It was held in the Eastmont Middle School auditorium and attracted several hundred people.

Curtis avoided talking about Trump, instead focusing on the successes he’s had as mayor of Provo and even referring to a fifth-grade report card that chided him for talking too much.

“Look at my record,” said the frontrunner in the district that’s considered one of the most Republican in the country, pledging to continue building unity if elected. “It begins with valuing other people’s opinions.”

Allen, a Cottonwood Heights physician, made a point of saying she is a Democrat and stands for compassion, community and cooperation. But she said she would be tough on Trump even if other Democrats in Congress aren’t.

“We haven’t talked a lot tonight about Donald Trump. But he needs to be stood up to and I’m ready to do that. I’m ready to call him out for lying, for his racist tendencies, his sexist tendencies, for his xenophobia,” Allen said.

Earlier in the debate, she referred to a tweet she’d sent out this week with side-by-side pictures of the white nationalists toting tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Statute of Liberty, telling Curtis to “Pick a torch.”

Curtis’ campaign responded by saying Allen was insinuating that he was a white supremacist, “a ridiculous charge and a new level of desperation.” Curtis did not talk about the tweet during Friday’s debate.

Afterward, Curtis told reporters it wasn’t his place to “clean that up. Trump has distractions. That’s a distraction. If anybody can’t see the hypocrisy of criticizing Donald Trump for that and then doing it themselves, I don’t need to point that out.”

Another recent campaign controversy also came up Friday: a Curtis ad on Facebook urging support for building the wall sought by Trump along the U.S. border with Mexico. Curtis pulled the ad and apologized.

Bennett, the son of the late U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, said people “exploded in outrage” over the ad, especially coming from a candidate they saw as more moderate than the president.

Curtis took one of the few swings of the evening, saying too many politicians “do what Mr. Bennett has just done, which is poke and prod for divisiveness” rather than look for better ideas on immigration, including improving border security.

Post-debate, Bennett said “the specter of Trump was hanging over everything that was said. The fact that John Curtis says he supports the Trump agenda and then tries to distance himself from the specifics … is increasingly frustrating.”

He said there’s no way to separate how Utahns feel about Trump from the election. Although the president won Utah with 45 percent of the vote, it was his lowest margin of victory in the 2016 presidential race.

Allen said after the debate Trump is a focus because the GOP has not “demonstrated any ability at all to hold him accountable.” She said sending another Republican to Congress won’t make a difference, “no matter what a great guy he is.”

Curtis told reporters that when he says he supports the Trump agenda, “I’m talking about solving health care. I’m talking about solving immigration. I’m talking about tax reform.”

He said those are the issues he’s hearing from voters in the 3rd District, which includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties as well as Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Wasatch counties.

“The don’t say Trump and they don’t say (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi,” Curtis said.

Asked by reporters about Trump’s new executive order ending health care subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act better known as Obamacare, Curtis said that’s the president’s style.

“That’s a little bit of the way he negotiates and does things, right. He’s going to force Congress to do (its) job,” Curtis said. He said Congress “should be the ones embarrassed” by the failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

He also said difficulties in Washington, D.C., were nothing new.

“I don’t care who your president was. I don’t care what all the agendas are,” Curtis said. “It’s been far worse than this multiple times. We’ll work through this. That’s why we need to send people back there who are going to work hard.”

Buchman, who is lagging in the polls behind the other three, used his invitation to participate in the debate to talk about libertarian ideals, including freedom from government interference in people’s lives.

The special election for the remaining year of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s term in Congress is Nov. 7. There are eight candidates vying to replace Chaffetz, who resigned June 30 and is now a Fox News contributor.

Two debates to be held featuring 3rd Congressional District candidates

Two debates to be held featuring 3rd Congressional District candidates

This article originally appeared in The Daily Herald (Link)

Oct 9, 2017

With elections just over a month away, Utah residents will have two opportunities to hear candidates for the open 3rd Congressional District seat make their case.

Two formal debates will be held. The first, put on by the ABU Education Fund and the John R. Park Debate Society, will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Eastmont Middle School auditorium in Sandy.

The top four polling candidates have been invited to participate, according to a press release: Republican John Curtis, Democrat Kathie Allen, United Utahn Jim Bennett and Libertarian Joe Buchman.

Each candidate will get a 3-minute introduction followed by approximately an hour of responses/rebuttal following moderator questions.

Those who wish to attend must register for tickets, which can be done at

The second debate, sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission, will be held at Brigham Young University’s KBYU Studios from 6 to 7 p.m. Oct. 18, and will be hosted by David Magleby.

People who wish to attend this event in person can register for tickets at candidates cleared the threshold for participating in that debate — Allen, Bennett and Curtis.

Questions can be submitted for this debate by visiting The deadline for submitting questions is noon Friday.

Katie England covers politics, the environment and courts for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or