Utahns have been focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past several months with little to distract from its devastation. As the state continues to move forward in the “yellow” phase of recovery, it is also time for residents to fully engage in the upcoming primary election.

Without traditional campaign rallies, ice cream socials, pizza and politics, and other gatherings, it’s easy to forget the importance of primary contests taking place June 30. Ballots should start hitting mailboxes on June 11. Many eyes across the nation will be on Utah as the state demonstrates how a vote-by-mail system can be safe and secure.

Utahns should also show the nation what it means to be informed and engaged in the process. The post-pandemic world is looking for leadership. Utah and its residents are poised to lead with a strong free-market economy, along with the nation’s most robust civil society where individuals, volunteer organizations, religious institutions and businesses all work together to foster stronger communities and create upward mobility and opportunity.

The state’s success is not an accident, nor is its perpetuation guaranteed. The upcoming primary election and fall campaign are important opportunities for voters to choose who leads the state into an uncertain future, one filled with enormous opportunities.

This Monday and Tuesday, the Utah Debate Commission will present four GOP and one Democratic primary debates. At the national level, voters in the 1st and 4th congressional districts will get to see the field of candidates engage. Monday’s viewing will end with the four gubernatorial candidates squaring off at 6 p.m. Readers should visit utahdebatecommission.org/schedule for times and viewing options.

It should be noted that the Democratic Party, along with other Utah political parties, do not have any contested primaries in four of these races. The vote.utah.gov website contains a list of all parties and candidates for office as well as important voter registration information and answers to other election-related questions.

Sadly, today’s debates and speeches have devolved into preproduced, overrehearsed one-liners and zingers primarily designed for social media moments and fundraising. At one time in America’s history, debates were the place where ideas, principles and policies took center stage. The politicians were simply the means of engaging people in the process. 

Utah should show in these debates that it is possible to restore both meaningful debate and civil dialogue to political campaigns. 

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How Utah emerges from the pandemic matters. Leadership will play an important role. Dealing with the current crisis and creating both a vision and a strategy for the future is no small task. Leaders will need to tackle head on issues related to the economy, education, mental health, air quality and the environment, homelessness and health care.

We hope these debates and all that follows in the primary and general election cycle will adhere to the words of 1958 presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson: “Let’s talk sense to the American people. Let’s tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions, not easy decisions. ... What counts now is not just what we are against, but what we are for.”

It is every Utahn’s choice to fully engage in the process. We encourage everyone to participate. We expect candidates to make their case to voters in a positive way.

The future is in the hands of the people if the people choose to vote.