Gov. Spencer Cox on Thursday said he questions the importance of debates between candidates in today's political climate, when asked for his thoughts about a Utah Republican congressman who recently bowed out of a debate.
"I think it's appropriate to talk about the value of these debates, certainly the Lincoln-Douglas debates are kind of the high watermark when it comes to actual substantive debating, and it's probably been downhill since then," Cox said during his monthly PBS news conference on Thursday.
When asked for his thoughts on Rep. Burgess Owens opting out of a recent debate, Cox noted that debates themselves have become "a debate" across the country.
Owens pulled out of a scheduled debate earlier this month because the moderator was the executive editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, which he says ran a racist cartoon about him last year.
"There's a Democratic candidate for governor in Arizona who refuses to debate. We've got Republicans, one in our state and other states, that are refusing to debate," Cox said.
The governor explained that he hasn't watched any of the Congressional debates this year, although he has a few recorded on his TV.
He said he hasn't seen many in recent years that had "substance." Cox called debating issues a "good thing" but said opponents attacking each other "probably doesn't add to the collective wisdom of voters or make us better as a nation."
"I haven't seen debates where it changes anyone's mind," Cox said.
But, he said, he supports the Utah Debate Commission. "I do like that we have a bipartisan commission ... and the idea is to try to make it as fair as possible."
When asked for his thoughts on some residents' belief that some of this year's primary races were "rigged," Cox noted that belief is nothing new.
"And yes, there's no question that it's had a damaging impact on trust," Cox said.
But he said elections in Utah — which are overseen but not managed by the lieutenant governor's office — are secure, and he invited anyone with concerns to visit their county clerks.
Cox said the 29 clerks across the state have worked to make the process transparent and let people in to see the inner workings of elections.
"What we've done this year is to say, 'Hey, look, there are no secrets here. Come in and we will show you exactly how every election works,'" the governor said.
"People have no idea how many security measures are in place, how impossible it would be to significantly commit the type of fraud that could overturn an election," he added.
Cox said it's easier for some candidates who lose an election to say: "There's no way I could have lost, it must be a rigged election," with no proof at all. He called that attitude "sad and unfortunate" and thanked those who lose their races with "dignity."