PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Gov. Olene Walker was criticized for her veto of school vouchers for the disabled as all nine contenders for the Republican gubernatorial nomination met together in the first of six debates.
In addition to Walker, they included political unknown Gary Benson, former Congressman Jim Hansen, state Sen. Parley Hellewell, Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert, industrialist Jon M. Huntsman Jr., Regents Chairman Nolan Karras, businessman Fred Lampropoulos and House Speaker Marty Stephens.
Hansen was late, blamed it on heavy traffic on Interstate 15 and said it showed the state needs the Legacy Highway.
Walker made the debate despite Thursday being her 50th wedding anniversary.
Two issues that drew the audience's attention more than the others were a proposal for a veto override session and gay marriage.
Walker has drawn fire for vetoing a bill that would subsidize private education for disabled students.
Huntsman said the bill would have helped move the state toward giving parents more choices for their children's education.
Karras said he also supported the bill.
Lampropoulos called for a veto override session for the bill. The audience agreed with Lampropoulos, cheering and applauding at his suggestion.
Walker said she feels strongly about giving a good education to children with special needs, but there were constitutional problems with the bill.
Walker did not veto the funding for the program and has proposed diverting it to improving education for the disabled within the public school system.
Stephens, who co-sponsored the bill, denied that the bill had constitutional problems.
None of the candidates supported civil unions for gay couples.
Lampropoulos said marriage is a pillar, and if it is removed, society will tumble.
"The state has to stand strong," Stephens said. "Otherwise, the whole system of government will collapse."
Other candidates agreed, stating that the basis of society is marriage between a man and a woman, and the law should reflect that.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)