Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY -- A head-to-head debate pitted Republican Gov. Gary Herbert against Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon at the University of Utah Tuesday night.
The gubernatorial candidates met at a Town Hall debate in their final appearance together before the election. The debate focused on the economy, education, ethics and immigration. Both candidates relied heavily on talking points honed from weeks of previous debates.
Though they didn't break any new ground, they did deepen their rivalry.
The debate started with education. Corroon criticized funding by the state.
"We haven't seen a commitment," he said. "Gary Herbert says he's supporting our education funding, but it's not happening. I see the effects through larger class sizes."
Meanwhile, Herbert insisted he's committed to education.
"It isn't all bad out there," he said. "Again, nobody's arguing for the status quo, but things are certainly a lot better than the gloom and doom that you're preaching."
Through an outburst, statewide nondiscrimination ordinances entered the discussion. Shouting the names of gay teen suicide victims, eight people were escorted out of the building.
On immigration, Corroon was also critical of Herbert, calling for better leadership as the state searches for answers.
"We hear our state leaders saying it will be tough, but then they don't do anything," he said.
Herbert fired back, saying, "As far as my guiding principles I've talked about, we cannot ignore the rule of law."
When it came to ethics, Corroon said Utahns want more reform. The governor, however, insisted progress is being made.
The pair again sparred about Corroon using the I-15 CORE project bidding process as an example reform is needed.
"Even if it wasn't illegal, it's still improper what's happened," said Corroon. "It's not just the I-15 project."
Herbert heatedly disputed Corroon's allegations.
"Mayor Corroon keeps talking about that I don't challenge the facts," he said. "I challenge his facts and, more importantly, I challenge his conclusions."
Corroon's campaign has focused heavily on government ethics in its advertising campaign.
Utah is one of a handful of states that places no limits on who can donate to a campaign or how large those contributions can be. Corroon contends that has resulted in a corrupt system of large contributors winning government favors.
He favors campaign contribution limits, while Herbert does not.
"I think we need to be strong about it, send a message to our citizens that we're not all about money in politics and that our citizens trust their government," Corroon said. "Right now, I don't see that in the state of Utah. And I think that's why, frankly, citizens have lost their inclination to be involved in their government or to even vote."
Herbert has repeatedly disputed Corroon's insinuation that he has somehow done something unethical by accepting large contributions from government contractors. He suggested it was Corroon who was being unethical by running a negative campaign.
"I find it puzzling that somebody can say that because you don't support my particular piece of legislation on ethics reform, therefore you're somehow unethical. That itself seems unethical to me," Herbert said. "We ought to be able to have some differences of opinion."
Finally, when it came to the economy, the governor said he was proud of where Utah is. Corroon was again critical.
In the aftermath, analysts said the debate covered well-worn topics -- nothing likely to change a voters mind.
"I don't think you saw a whole lot new," said Matthew Burbank, a political science professor at the University of Utah. "I don't think you saw from Corroon a convincing pitch as to why voters should reconsider their vote."
Utahns will select their new governor in exactly two weeks.
Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and The Associated Press.