JERRY M. GOWE
The Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce will sponsor the first head-to-head debate between Chris Cannon and Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, today at 7:30 p.m. at the Provo City Council Chambers located at 351 W. Center St., according to a press release issued by the chamber.
Although the two candidates have sat on several panels together, this will be their first actual debate, according to Steve Densley, president of the chamber.
“From my perspective, this is probably going to be one of the more important races in the U.S. as far as the U.S. Congress goes. It could tip the power fully to the Democrats or switch it back to the Republicans. We could have a highly liberal circumstance in this country,” Densley said. “Whether that’s something that America wants or not, we’ll see come November 5.”
Densley also said that many of the elections occurring this year are some of the most important elections of the century.
“If Clinton wins this election, you’ll possibly see two or three new Democrat appointees to the Supreme Court. That could turn the political base to the liberal left for quite some time,” Densley said.
According to the press release issued by the chamber, the debate will take an informal approach, where the audience will be allowed to submit questions. The chamber invites BYU students to attend, and encourages those in attendance to have questions prepared, Densley said.
“They will probably ask the audience to write down questions in advance and submit those to the committee in attendance to make sure they are questions developed to the federal level and not the local level,” Densley said. “We want the candidates to be able to focus on those issues they have control over.”
Jenny Wilson, campaign advisor to Bill Orton, said that there have been a few joint appearances with the two candidates in the past, but these have involved a shorter time frame and were not typical debates as seen by the public.
“All debates are an integral part of an election,” Wilson said. “It allows a chance to see the candidates first hand. You’re able to see them answer specific questions with respect to their audience and their district.”
Wilson said the debate will be a good opportunity for candidates to get their message out. She also said that Orton enjoys participating in the debates.
“Bill looks forward to them. He’s the kind of person that likes that contact so that the public can see a candidate’s position and background and be able to judge for themselves, instead of being seen through the media, which may not be the most accurate means to get a message out,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the format will be similar to typical debates in the past. The candidates will be responding to direct audience questions, which is a good reason for students to attend, Wilson said.
Wilson said there are several debates coming up between the two candidates. She also said that the Cannon camp has allegedly cancelled some of the future debates because of scheduling conflicts.
“We’re disappointed and we hope that Cannon will still meet with us. We want to have every debate we possibly can,” Wilson said. “I don’t know if Cannon doesn’t think he’s prepared enough to go head on with Congressman Orton or not. We have a set number of appearances, and for us those are set in stone. We are absolutely ready to go.”
Chuck Warren, campaign advisor to Chris Cannon, said that Cannon is looking forward to the debates and also sees them as a good opportunity to inform the public of the issues.
“We look forward to the debate. It will be a wonderful opportunity for us to share our vision of America with the people of the 3rd District,” Warren said.
Warren also said that the debate will give people a chance to see the differences between the two candidates.
“This will also be a wonderful opportunity for us to talk about our differences with Bill Orton. We look at this as a very defining opportunity to say this is what we’re about and promote our agenda,” Warren said.
In response to the question of Cannon allegedly cancelling future debates, Warren said that the Orton camp is infamous for their whining.
“We said we would do 10 debates. We have 11 or 12 debates scheduled. The one debate we cancelled is out of our district,” Warren said. “We will not have our campaign dictated by Bill Orton. We’re going out every day. We’re pounding doors to tell people.”
Warren said that citizens of the 3rd District don’t know who Bill Orton is.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to show where we want to take America. If voters can go to the voting booths on November 5 and feel happy that they have made an informed choice, win or lose, that’s what we are hoping for,” Warren said.
“This is a very, very important election race,” Densley said. “I have heard from Washington that this is one of the eight most important elections in the country.”
When asked about the two candidates participating, Densley said that this particular race is interesting because both Orton and Cannon are stories in themselves.
“Bill Orton has not been fully tested up to this point and Chris Cannon surely has the financial means to go head on. We’re seeing a full out state of the art blitz by both candidates,” Densley said.
Because of the Oct. 16 voter registration deadline, Densley said the chamber is urging citizens to register, and then go and vote. Densley believes the debates will help citizens decide on a candidate to vote for.
“We hope people fully understand where both candidates are coming from. This will give them a chance to see them both in a formal setting and be a part of the process,” Densley said.