SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Democratic Party is calling for reform within the Utah Debate Commission after a debate in the race for Utah Attorney General was rescheduled to occur relatively late in the election season.
"The Utah Democratic Party believes that the Utah Debate Commission was either directly lied to by the Sean Reyes campaign or was directly involved in an effort to benefit Mr. Reyes's campaign," a letter, dated Tuesday, from Democratic Party chair Jeff Merchant to the Debate Commission said. "Due to the Commission's failure to adhere to its strict policy of not giving candidates the ability to adjust, change or manipulate the dates of debates to benefit themselves, the UDP believes Mr. Skordas's campaign has been directly and irreparably harmed."
As FOX 13 first reported last week, the debate between Attorney General Reyes and his challenger, Greg Skordas, had been originally scheduled for October 1. Reyes asked for the debate to be rescheduled because he planned to be in Hawaii to attend a memorial service for his father.
"Later, we found out that Mr. Reyes was here in town holding political events during the time he said he was going to be in Hawaii at a memorial for his father,” said Utah Debate Commission Co-Chair Wayne Niederhauser.
According to Merchant's letter, the UDP received information that Reyes was not attending a funeral or planning a trip to Hawaii.
"While all of this shows that Mr. Reyes essentially hoodwinked the Commission, the Commission cannot be solely blamed for getting tripped up in Mr. Reyes's mistruths and misleading statements. Nevertheless, the Commission is squarely to blame for bending its rules to allow something like this to happen in the first place," the letter states.
In his letter, Merchant urged the Debate Commission to include representatives from both major political parties as members of the commission, and to apologize for and explain the reason for the "lateness" of the debate, which was rescheduled to October 21, at a time when tens of thousands of Utahns have already returned their ballots.
FOX 13 will carry the debate Wednesday at 6 p.m. on fox13now.com, the FOX 13 Roku app (search for "KSTU") and the FOX 13 News Facebook page.