VP Candidates Harris and Pence Come to the U to Debate


Natalie Colby

The vice presidential debate on Oct. 7, 2020 at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Natalie Colby | Daily Utah Chronicle.)

By Ivana Martinez and Natalie Colby



On Oct. 7 at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris sat down for the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate. The debate lasted 90 minutes and was separated into nine topics with 10 minutes for each candidate. 

Prior to the debate, President Ruth Watkins, standing next to the ASUU student presidency, addressed the crowd of students, government officials, candidates’ families and more. 

Watkins read messages from each member of the presidency. 

As we are all citizens of humankind. And our chief role as such is to tailor the world to be more ethical than the one we grew up in. In order to avoid complicity in governmental injustice. It is our responsibility to vote for just outcomes within our own respective,” Watkins said from Vice President of University Relations Ayana Amaechi. 

Communications specialist at the U, Shawn Wood said the university has been excited about hosting this debate since they secured the debate last year, however, recent developments have made it even more exciting. 

“This is the first time that a vice presidential debate has had this weight to it, this gravity of importance,” Wood said. “There’s only one vice presidential debate, every year and we got it and we were excited. And then all these other developments happen and it just built on that excitement.”

While the debate was occurring at Kingsbury Hall, outside the various different groups gathered outside to protest for various reasons. 

Inside were 60 selected students from the U, several students from other universities and some volunteers who were chosen last minute. Each student sat separated by several seats and all were required to wear masks the entire time. 

Each candidate sat behind PlexiGlass and agreed to follow the rules which were to give each candidate two minutes to respond to the questions. 

The topics were chosen by the moderator and these topics covered COVID-19, the economy, climate change, relationship with China, the role of American leadership, the supreme court, racial justice — focusing on the Breonna Taylor case — the election and a peaceful transfer of power. 

The candidates respected the rules more than last week’s presidential debate between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. However, in a similar matter, various questions remained unanswered. 

USA Today moderator Susan Page opened up the night by questioning Sen. Harris about how the Biden administration would have handled the pandemic back in March. 

Harris and Pence took opposing stances in many different topics. Pence declaring his unapologetic pro-life stance, while Harris said she respects a woman’s choice when it comes to abortion.  

The candidates also came to a standstill on racial injustice. When Page brought up the Breonna Taylor Case, Sen. Harris said she believed justice was not served for Taylor and cited other instances of police brutality with George Floyd. Harris mentioned potential reforms under the Biden administration such as banning chokeholds, getting rid of private prisons and decriminalizing marijuana. 

While Pence said the Breonna Taylor case was heartbreaking, he said he had agreed with the grand jury decision. He also said he doesn’t believe systematic racism exists in America. 

This presumption that you hear consistently from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris that America is systemically racist, that, as Joe Biden said, law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities, that is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement,” Pence said.

The candidates also debated their responses and plan to combat climate change. 

Pence said the progress the Trump administration has made in cleaning the environment comes from the free market economy.

“The climate is changing, we will follow the science,” Pence said

Harris said she believes climate change is an existential threat and while they do not plan on using the Green New Deal, Biden’s plans will both help the environment and create jobs.

The debate concluded with a question from a winner of the debate commissions essay contest, Brecklynn Brown, an eighth-grader from Springville Junior High.  

Brown asked, “If our leaders can’t get along, how are the citizens supposed to get along?”

Each candidate commended the student on her early interest in politics. Pence said America believes in a free and open exchange of debate. 

Harris said Biden wanted to run because he wanted to repair the hate he saw in America, and his consistent desire and effort to work across the aisle. 

The Daily Utah Chronicle copy desk live-tweeted and fact-checked the debate, more information is available on the twitter accounts. 



[email protected]


[email protected]