Jonathan Johnson hosts debates without Governor Herbert

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SOUTH JORDAN -- As he seeks the Republican nomination, Jonathan Johnson wants to debate Governor Gary Herbert. So far, the governor will not oblige.

So Johnson is moving ahead with someone else filling the chair -- Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City.

On Thursday, Johnson and Dabakis sat in the studios of KTKK Radio, debating the issues of the day. In a sometimes fiery conversation, they discussed state's rights, education funding, Syrian refugees, among other topics.

"The DABC!" Dabakis declared, launching into a tirade on the radio about the liquor control authority. "A lot of the people there frankly don't know a Merlot from a burrito!"

"Jim, I want to talk about the importance of having public trust in government," Johnson replied.

Republican candidate for governor Jonathan Johnson at a debate on KTKK Radio.

Republican candidate for governor Jonathan Johnson at a debate on KTKK Radio.

Dabakis found himself agreeing with Johnson's ideas on Tier 3 fuels and improving air quality.

"I'm going to open my journal, mark this down as a red letter day," Johnson said. "The senator and I agree on something!"

While he says he's enjoyed his repartee with the outspoken Sen. Dabakis, Johnson admits who he really wants to debate right now is Gov. Gary Herbert.

"Look, when you're the incumbent you don't like a challenger," Johnson told FOX 13. "It's easy to ignore a challenger."

Even Dabakis admits he's no stand-in, but wanted to make sure Democratic viewpoints were heard.

"The most conservative governor since Brigham Young would be terrifically uncomfortable with me filling in for him," Dabakis chuckled. "But you know what? I have said I'd debate Republicans anytime, anyplace, anywhere."

A spokesman for Herbert's re-election campaign told FOX 13 that the governor will campaign next year. Right now, he's focusing on his budget recommendations and the upcoming legislative session.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, at a debate with Jonathan Johnson on KTKK Radio.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, at a debate with Jonathan Johnson on KTKK Radio.

"The governor's focus right now is 100 percent where it should be, doing the job voters have given him to do," said Herbert campaign spokesman Marty Carpenter.

Johnson said that as he prepares to gather signatures to get on the ballot for the Republican nomination, he wants voters to see the difference between the two of them.

"This is a 2016 gubenatorial campaign that I am planning -- and expect -- to win," he said.

While Dabakis said he's game for a debate, he repeatedly insisted he would not be going on the campaign trail.

"I'm not running for governor!" he told FOX 13. "I'm not running for governor. I only run for things I can win."