DRAPER, Utah — A Republican candidate in the upcoming primary election is accusing Congressman Burgess Owens of dodging debates.
Jake Hunsaker on Tuesday held a news conference outside Owens' Draper campaign headquarters, where he criticized the incumbent congressman for not agreeing to any debates and the Utah Republican Party of acting as a "safe haven."
"This is just another sign that my opponent views the entire electoral process as a threat to his game of toxic celebrity politics rather than an essential piece of American democracy," Hunsaker said. "Now I believe my opponent’s insistence of avoiding debate shows he’s absolutely terrified of one of two things: either he’s truly afraid of his constituents, the tough questions they’ll ask and the practical solutions they expect or he is afraid of himself."
Owens' campaign pushed back insisting the congressman is willing to debate.
"It's unfortunate that our opponent has chosen to launch his political career by engaging in mudslinging and lies. The people of Utah deserve better. The campaign has never said we would not debate. These are desperate lies being spread by our political opponent. Congressman Owens is currently looking at possible dates to debate in June," the Owens campaign said in a statement.
The Utah GOP has discouraged candidates from participating in the upcoming primary election debates being put on by the nonpartisan Utah Debates Commission (of which FOX 13 News is a member). Utah GOP Chair Carson Jorgensen has argued that the primaries are partisan and the party should have a say in the moderators and questions asked. The party is hosting its own debates moderated by its party chair and a talk radio host.
Congressman Blake Moore is the only incumbent to agree to debate his primary challengers, Andrew Badger and Tina Cannon, in the Utah Debate Commission's events. The others have refused to participate, leaving their challengers either alone on stage with an empty lectern or to debate among themselves. In the closely watched Senate Republican primary, Becky Edwards and Ally Isom will debate with Sen. Mike Lee skipping it.