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Nadolski drops out of upcoming mayoral debate; Knuth still to take part

By Rob Nielsen - | Oct 16, 2023

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Taylor Knuth, left, and Ben Nadolski are vying to be Ogden's next mayor. They are facing off in this year's general election, which concludes Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

OGDEN — Ogden mayoral hopeful Taylor Knuth will be alone on the stage for a debate on Wednesday.

Ben Nadolski, the other contender, has decided not take part in Wednesday’s Alliance for a Better Utah Institute debate at Weber State University.

On Monday, Nadolski’s campaign released a statement to the Standard-Examiner on the issue, citing fears arising from the departure of the debate’s co-host, the John R. Park Debate Society. Knuth said he’ll still take part, setting the stage for a one-candidate debate.

“On October 4, 2023, we were notified of the University of Utah/John R. Park Debate Society’s decision to withdraw from co-hosting debates this election cycle with the Better Utah Institute, citing concerns related to transparency and fairness,” Nadolski’s statement said. “This also included the Ogden Mayoral debate on October 18, 2023, at Weber State University. Our team discussed this issue with the John R. Park Debate Society and ultimately agreed with their determination that this forum did not meet fairness and transparency expectations that are paramount in a debate setting.”

Nadolski campaign manager Daniela Harding said campaign officials were leery of having Nadolski on the debate stage given their uncertainties. “There is something going on between those two entities that we have not been made privy to but nonetheless we didn’t want Ben in an environment where there was obviously some discord,” she said.

The Nadolski statement noted that he will still participate in the KUER debate on Thursday, also to be held at Weber State.

Knuth said in a statement that he has no plans to bow out of Wednesday’s debate, to start at 6 p.m. in Wildcat Theater in the Shepherd Union on the Weber State campus. “Transparency and fairness mean showing up for our residents, especially when we are asking for their trust and votes. I welcome any opportunity to have substantive discussions about the important issues we face as Ogdenites,” he said.

Alliance for a Better Utah Institute Executive Director Jeff Merchant told the Standard-Examiner on Monday that they had been informed of Nadolski’s intent to withdraw last Friday. The organization’s mission, according to its website, is to empower Utah’s electorate and hold public officials accountable.

“I asked them for their explanation, which to me was that they didn’t feel like it was in the best interest of their candidate to (participate),” Merchant said. “I informed them that unless the other candidate also withdrew, that we were planning to move forward with the debate, and we do intend to move forward with it.”

Merchant said that Nadolski is still invited to attend the debate. “We don’t feel like it’d be fair to the Knuth campaign, who’s prepared for the debate, to not do it because one of the candidates isn’t showing up,” he said.

Merchant said the Better Utah Institute has collaborated with the John R. Park Debate Society for a decade and sees its departure as a short-term separation.

“This year we had challenges seeing eye-to-eye on the logistical details and they didn’t feel comfortable with some of the changes we wanted to make so we decided that for this year we just wouldn’t do them together,” he said. “It didn’t seem to us to be something that’s long-term, it seemed to be something related to this debate cycle.”

The public is invited to attend Wednesday’s debate but is asked to RSVP first at https://bit.ly/3Q1SbJi. Thursday’s debate, involving both mayoral hopefuls, starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in Room 101 of Lindquist Hall on the Weber State campus.

Reporter Tim Vandenack contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a quote from Nadolski campaign manager Daniela Harding.


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