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There will be no third-party candidates in the upcoming political debates sponsored by the Utah Debate Commission after none of the outsiders managed to crack the threshold of support needed to qualify for the stage.
The commission, created to set groundrules and schedules for at least one debate in each major race in the state, commissioned a poll to measure candidate support, and in each race, the candidates fell short of the 10 percent mark set by the independent commission.
The poll also showed Republican candidates with enormous leads in each race, including the 4th Congressional District rematch between Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love and Democratic challenger Doug Owens.
Owens lost to Love by 5 percentage points two years ago, and since then, national Democrats and political handicappers have listed the race as one of the top targets for a Democratic pickup in November. However, the debate commission poll shows Love with a surprising 19-point advantage over Owens.
The most recent poll of the race, conducted for UtahPolicy.com last month, showed Love with a 13-point advantage. Love had previously released internal polling that showed similar results.
If the race has swung that heavily to Love's advantage, it is likely that national Democrats could abandon Owens' campaign in favor of more competitive targets.
In the race for Utah governor, incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert leads Democrat Mike Weinholtz 65 percent to 17 percent, the largest gap of any of the races polled. Libertarian Party candidate Brian Kamerath is at 3 percent. Superdell Schanze is at 2 percent.
Sen. Mike Lee is well in front of Democratic challenger Misty Snow, 53 percent to 17 percent, with climate-change advocate Bill Barron garnering 5 percent.
Attorney General Sean Reyes leads Democratic challenger Jon Harper, 45 percent to 17 percent, with Libertarian Andrew McCullough at 5 percent.
Reyes is notably under 50 percent support in the poll and there is still a large bloc 29 percent of undecided voters.
Harper chalked up the gap to a lack of name recognition among voters, and said when they get to know him, they will come to his side.
"In spite of the incumbent's party affiliation, voters do not believe that the incumbent's promise to reform the Attorney General's office has been fulfilled," Harper said in a statement. "Voters are sick of scandal, tired of career politicians, and ready for leaders who will stand up for them, and not for party leaders or big donors. This race is winnable."
In the 2nd District, Rep. Chris Stewart is also under 50 percent support, leading Democrat Charlene Albarran, 49 percent to 20 percent the narrowest margin outside the Love-Owens race. Constitution Party candidate Paul McCollaum, Jr. came in at 5 percent. Twenty-six percent are still undecided.
Third District Rep. Jason Chaffetz leads Democrat Stephen Tryon, 64 percent to 22 percent.
And 1st District Rep. Rob Bishop registered 60 percent support, ahead of Democrat Peter Clemens at 14 percent and Libertarian candidate Craig Bowden at 5 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of 4.38 percent, meaning the third party candidates would have had to get to 5.62 percent to qualify for the debates.
The survey was conducted by Lighthouse Research, a Salt Lake City polling firm, between Aug. 2 and Sept. 3 an unusually large window to conduct polling. Five hundred voters in each district were sampled.
Debates sponsored by Utah Debate Commission
The debates will be aired on local television and radio stations and streamed online. Each debate begins at 6 p.m.
Attorney General Debate: Sept. 21 at Dixie State University
Gubernatorial Debate: Sept. 26 at Utah State University
2nd District Debate: Oct. 4 at The University of Utah
4th District Debate: Oct. 10 at Salt Lake Community College
Senate Debate: Oct. 12 at Brigham Young University
1st District Debate: Oct. 17 at Weber State University
3rd District Debate: Oct. 19 at Utah Valley University › XX