Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris took part in the only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election Wednesday night.
For first time in its history, the University of Utah hosted a national political debate.
Moderator Susan Page covered several topics during the debate, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, race and ethnic inequality, and accepting the results of the election.
Within minutes, Harris attacked Pence and President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic.
“This administration has forfeited their right to re-election,” she said.
Harris also highlighted the administration’s stance on mask use.
“The president said you are one side of the ledger if you wear a mask,” she said. “And you are on one side of the ledger if you don’t.”
Pence defended the administration’s response, saying they “saved hundreds of thousands of lives.” He also attacked the plan that former Vice President Joe Biden and Harris have put out.
“The reality is when you look at the Biden plan, it looks a lot like what President Trump and I have been doing every step of the way,” he said.
Pence was pressed on the now infamous Rose Garden event where President Trump and other Republican senators and political operatives were infected with the COVID-19 virus.
“That Rose Garden event, there has been a great deal of speculation on the event,” he said. “It was an outdoor event, which our scientists routinely advise.”
When asked about climate change and whether it was attributed to man-made causes, Pence admitted that “the climate is changing” and touted The Outdoors Act that the Trump campaign enacted, but then changed the subject to the economy and how environmental restrictions should not slow down the economy.
“The U.S. has reduced more CO2 than the countries still in the Paris Agreement,” he said. “And we’ve done it through natural gas and fracking.”
Harris said the Biden administration would immediately get back into the Paris Accords, but she said that they would not ban fracking.
The debate turned to the topic of race and ethnic inequality, and each of the candidates were asked about the death of Breonna Taylor.
“Her family deserves justice,” Harris said.
Pence had a much different answer.
“I trust the system,” he said.
Another topic of note was the peaceful transition of power. When asked what her party would do if the Trump administration refused to leave, Harris said that the power is with the voters.
“It is within our power to use our vote,” she said. “We will not let anyone subvert our democracy.”
Pence evaded the question of what he would do if the president refused to leave office, and instead accused the Democrats of already tampering with democracy.
“When you talk about accepting the outcome of the election, I have to tell you,” he said. “Senator, your party has spent the last three and a half years trying to overturn the elections of the 2016 election.”
The debate ended on a somewhat peaceful note with a question submitted by Utah eighth grader Brecklynn Booker, who described the political divide. She asked the candidates, “how is your presidency going to unite and heal our country?”
“When the debate is over, we will come together as Americans,” Pence said.
“Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up,” Harris said.
Outside Kingsbury Hall, protesters gathered to support their candidates and their causes. Globe photographer Will Samsky captured several images of the demonstrations.