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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will choose a new governor come November, as Gov. Gary Herbert steps down after becoming the nation’s longest-serving governor of 10 years.
In one week, the first gubernatorial debate will be held at the Salt Palace Convention Center during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit — a two-day conference hosted by the Silicon Slopes organization and community.
Last year, the summit drew 24,000 attendees, and Silicon Slopes executive director Clint Betts expects this year to far surpass that — especially after the organization announced Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a keynote speaker.
To meet debate thresholds, candidates have to raise at least $50,000 by Friday, Betts said. The debate will include current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, former Utah GOP chairman and businessman Thomas Wright, businessman Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton. No Democratic candidates qualified for the debate.
The only time these six have appeared together during the election season was in mid-January during a panel discussion at St. George Economic Development’s annual conference.
The debate will be about “the future of Utah,” and won’t necessarily focus solely on tech — though that’s certain to come up since it affects the Beehive State’s future so drastically, Betts said.
“We think the future of Utah is so critical,” Betts said, noting that the tech boom over the last decade has brought with it strained infrastructure, rising housing costs and other problems.
The summit draws a significant amount of attendees from out of state, but Betts believes those attendees will also be interested in what the potential future governors of Utah have to say. Some may be looking to invest in Utah companies while others may be thinking of moving their businesses to Utah, he explained. The future leader of the state could make or break those decisions.
Betts anticipates the coming debate to be the most widely-attended during the entire election cycle.
The debate will be held during the second day of the conference, Jan. 31 at 11 a.m. on the main stage. Tickets to the conference cost $195. The debate will be livestreamed at siliconslopes.com.