Thursday, June 19, 2014

Debates are hot topic in Senate debate

Debates over debates are a ritual in political campaigns. Who asks the questions? How long for rebuttals? How high the podium?

The debate in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race hasn't even gotten that far.

Negotiators for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis have yet to get to the table themselves.

Hagan laid out her debate plan in a May 29 letter to Tillis. She proposed accepting a request for a televised debate from the N.C. Association of Broadcasters.

"Once this debate has been finalized," she wrote, "I look forward to setting a productive and mutually agreed upon public debate schedule with mainstream media and moderators with ties to North Carolina."

On Thursday Paul Shumaker, Tillis's debate point person, emailed his counterpart Jim Phillips proposing a meeting to establish a schedule of debates. At least a half dozen other groups have asked to host one.

"The Tillis Campaign sees this process as one that is much larger than just finalizing debate details with the N.C. Broadcasters Association," he wrote. "In fact I assumed that as a seasoned political veteran you would see the value of a planning process that finalized a complete debate schedule through an inclusive process with all the organizations rather than an exclusive process with just one."

Phillips responded Thursday afternoon.

"It's clear we all agree that we need a spirited and productive public debate schedule like we proposed in our initial letter... Based on my experience negotiating debates in the past, I believe we will have the most effective process if we sit down with the Broadcasters and come to an agreement on all the many details involved in setting and conducting a debate. The first step will make it easier to determine the rest of the public debate schedule."

Shumaker says voters deserve many chances to the differences between the candidates, especially in a pivotal election nationally. He thinks Hagan is trying to avoid that.

"It appears this is about her trying to avoid multiple debates," he says. "We don't want an exclusive process where we're showing favoritism to one group over another."

There's no debate-ducking, according to Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.

"We're open to as many as it takes to make sure voters have the opportunity to see the contrast between her record of putting North Carolina voters first and Speaker Tillis's record of putting special interests first."

1 comment:

David P. McKnight said...

Good one-on-one debates are especially needed in this "headliner" U.S. Senate contest because so many well-financed campaign ads have been aired by "independent" or partisan national or other out-of-state groups seeking to determine the profile of choices in this race.

The people of North Carolina deserve a chance to hear directly from the candidates on their views of issues which could come up for senatorial attention for the next six years, including the entire first term of the next President to be elected in 2016. Thus while the remaining two years of the Obama administration will bring many matters for consideration by the U.S. Senate, in about half a year after this November election we will see the beginnings of vigorous national and state debates on the directions the country should be taking through the rest of this decade with respect to both congressional and presidential initiatives.

In another aspect of press coverage of this 2014 Senate campaign, it would be helpful if N.C. news organizations would spend a little more effort sending reporters out on the campaign trail to cover candidate speeches and other key political events instead of sitting back and letting the competing national political ad teams try to set the agenda for this campaign.