Salt Lake City GOP presidential debate canceled

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Republican presidential debate scheduled in Salt Lake City was canceled Wednesday after front-runner Donald Trump and Ohio winner John Kasich said they would not attend.

The news was a buzzkill for Utah residents who were excited about hosting a presidential debate for the first time in the state’s history.

Trump said on Fox News that he wouldn’t be participating in the Monday event because “we’ve had enough debates.”

The businessman, who won at least three more states Tuesday, said he instead plans to give a speech that night to the pro-Israel group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also known as AIPAC.

After a spokesman for Ohio Gov. Kasich said he would not join the debate, Fox News announced it was pulling the plug.

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox lamented the lost opportunity and criticized Trump for his role in torpedoing the event.

“This was a great opportunity for the state of Utah, a great opportunity for the voters,” said Cox, who had endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio, who left the race after losing his home state of Florida. “I’m very disappointed that Trump would selfishly decide not to come to the debate.”

More than 50,000 people had requested tickets for the debate planned for the Salt Palace Convention Center, said Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans.

Evans said in a statement that state officials were always aware the event could be cancelled, and highlighted the fact that Utah was chosen for the debate in the first place.

The debate would have been held the night before Utah voters chose their candidates for president in caucuses.

The debate could have brought hundreds of people to Salt Lake City for short visits and had an economic impact of hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Scott Beck, president of Visit Salt Lake.

His office had scoped out ideal areas for interviews to show off the scenic mountain vistas and other beauty of the area, he said.

“It’s not really about the economic impact,” Beck said. “It’s more of the social and media impact it has on your destination.”

Kasich is set to visit Salt Lake City for campaign events on Friday.

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