Republican candidate withdraws from debate, more could follow

- SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- (ABC 4 Utah) – Republican candidates for the state legislature are being encouraged to drop out of scheduled debates.

They recently got the warning from the chairman of their party.

James Evans believes one of the sponsors is biased and he doesn't think his candidates will get a fair shot.

The sponsor in question, Alliance for a Better Utah insists there is no agenda, other than educating voters.

The organization believes one way to increase participation on Election Day is to inform voters.

That's why they teamed up with the John R. Park Debate Society and KCPW Radio to host a series of debates.

"We decided together that this would be a great opportunity for us to provide these debates, these forums for constituents of either open districts or very competitive districts to meet the candidates," said Alliance for a Better Utah Executive Director, Maryann Martindale.

They decided on five races, Senate Districts 4 and 12 and House Districts 30, 43 and 44.

The Utah Republican Party is taking exception to Alliance for a Better Utah's role.

Chairman, James Evans says the organization leans left and is in it to give democrats an advantage.

"If that's your agenda move forward with that, but don't pretend to be an objective participant in one of the most crucial parts of a campaign, which is a debate between the two political philosophies," said Evans.

He sent an email last week to republican candidates, encouraging them not to participate.

"I would encourage other organizations to step forward and participate, because we always want legitimate debates," said Evans.

After that email was sent out House District 44 Candidate, Bruce Cutler dropped out.

Senate District 4 Candidate, Sabrina Peterson, Senate District 12 Candidate, Daniel Thatcher and House District 30 Candidate, Fred Cox confirmed they will still do the debates.

They are still waiting on word from House District 43 Candidate, Earl Tanner.

"My concern is what James Evans is doing is shutting down public discourse," said Martindale.

She insists they have no interest in supporting or opposing any candidate.

She says IRS guidelines forbid that, because they are sponsoring the debate through a 501 (c)(3) education fund.

"We would lose our designation, we would be taxed heavily, we would be fined heavily. They take this very seriously, as do we," said Martindale.

These debates are set to take place mid-September through mid-October.

They are still working on locations, but they will be held within the district of the race.

Organizers will try to line up another race if candidates refuse to the end.

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