Utah’s gubernatorial race heated up as incumbent Gov. Spencer Cox and challenger Rep. Phil Lyman engaged in a civil and policy-focused debate ahead of the primary. Hosted by the Utah Debate Commission and broadcast from PBS Utah’s studio, the debate steered clear of personal attacks, focusing instead on critical state-level issues.

Key topics included housing affordability, water management, federal versus state control, and the potential return of the Olympics in 2034. Despite earlier campaign rhetoric, both candidates maintained a respectful demeanor throughout, with minimal rebuttals and no contentious moments.

Reflecting on the debate, Cox described it as “unbelievably boring,” emphasizing that such debates should center on substantive policy discussions rather than theatrics. Lyman echoed this sentiment, noting that the format limited opportunities for heated exchanges.

However, outside of the debate, tensions have simmered as Lyman’s campaign accused Cox of aligning with the “Radical Left,” contrasting sharply with the cordial atmosphere during the televised event. Cox lamented the negativity of campaign tactics, attributing it to the pitfalls of political competition.

The race has seen its share of drama, particularly at the Utah Republican Party’s nominating convention, where Cox faced significant dissent despite securing a place on the primary ballot through signature gathering. Lyman, known for his confrontational stance against federal oversight and his controversial past activism, has positioned himself as a robust challenger to Cox’s more moderate governance style.

On policy, both candidates share conservative values, supporting Utah’s abortion restrictions and opposing federal intervention. However, they differ in approach, particularly on issues like housing, where Cox advocates for collaborative efforts with developers, while Lyman favors free-market solutions and criticizes excessive regulation.

The debate also highlighted divergent views on Utah’s potential bid to host the 2034 Winter Olympics. Cox expressed enthusiasm, citing public support and assurance that taxpayer funds would not be used, while Lyman raised concerns about costs and infrastructure strain.

Looking ahead, the race remains pivotal for Utah’s future direction, with Cox advocating for inclusivity and bipartisanship through initiatives like his “disagree better” campaign. In contrast, Lyman advocates for a more confrontational stance against federal mandates and increased local autonomy.

As the primary approaches, both candidates seek to distinguish themselves in a state grappling with complex policy challenges, promising a spirited competition rooted in competing visions for Utah’s governance.