Cox, Lyman go head-to-head in Republican gubernatorial debate

Posted at 9:39 PM, Jun 11, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — On Tuesday night, Republican candidates for Governor took to the debate stage to share their campaign messages. Current Utah Governor Spencer Cox and State Representative Phil Lyman debated a variety of issues.

Starting off with housing affordability, Cox called it the “single most important issue” in the state now. He said he worked to pass the most comprehensive housing reform in the state, because the state’s kids and grandkids should be able to own property. The plan is to build more starter homes that cost around $300,000, so that families that are just starting out are able to invest in a home.

Lyman said the “free market enterprise is going to fix this problem.” He added that the median cost of homes is half a million dollars, and there are high incentives to build high-density or commercial spaces, with small people and average homeowners getting left out.

Moving on to water, and because Utah is one of the driest states, Lyman said the state needs to improve water infrastructure. Cox said they have worked on changing water laws, and he is proud of how Utahns are changing their ways to conserve water.

The next question was if states control abortion laws, and what Utah laws should be. Cox said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and the Supreme Court did the right thing by overturning that ruling. He said Utah has implemented new laws to protect lives, and those decisions should be left to the state. Lyman added to that, saying Utah passed legislation that would not allow abortion when the law would come through.

On the topic of education, both candidates were asked about the Utah Fits All scholarship and if it needs modifications. Cox said the legislation gives the largest raises to teachers, provides more school choice, and sets aside a small portion of overall education funding for students who need the help. Lyman said the money follows children, which allows more autonomy for parents and their involvement in the public school process.

One topic of contention is bringing the Winter Olympics to Utah. Organizers released an initial budget estimate that the games cost just under $4 billion. While Cox says the games won’t cost a single dollar of Utah taxpayer money, Lyman says bringing the games back is unpopular.

"When I talk to people out on the street, even here in Salt Lake: 'Do you want the Olympics?' They say, 'Why? Why would we want the Olympics?'" Lyman said. "I love the Olympics, I love watching it. I know it’s a huge economic driver. But it is a tremendous cost to our city, to our state, and to the people that live in Utah."

"We actually did take a poll, and it came out yesterday, and 79% of Utahns are excited for the Olympics to come back — 79%. In this day and age, it is impossible to get 79% of anybody to agree on anything. So I’m not sure who my colleague is talking to,” Cox responded.

Another issue was the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service restricting public land usage in Utah. Cox said the “federal government is out of control” and multiple lawsuits have been filed to let Utahns access these roads and areas. Lyman said lawsuits are not enough, and the state should assert its jurisdiction.

About securing the border, Lyman said current policies make the state a magnet for illegal immigration. Cox said the Biden administration failed the country. He said officials have to fix the legal immigration system because “we need good people.”

When asked if the calendars of public officials should remain private or be made public, both agreed that they should be public — but only if officials know that their calendars will be made public, and not changing that designation after the fact.

Registered Republicans can cast their votes in the primary election on or by June 25. For information on voter registration, mail-in ballots and in-person voting, visit