Andal’s campaign sent out a letter this afternoon titled “Local Leaders for Open Debate” signed by esteemed officials — and Republicans — including Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf, Walnut Creek Councilwoman Sue Rainey, Danville Councilwoman Karen Stepper and retired Pleasanton police chief Bill Eastman.
“This is just another slap in the face to voters,” Rupf was quoted saying in the press release. “First, Mr. McNerney refused to debate Dean Andal in an open forum …”
Sheriff Rupf is an admirable elected official (who carries a gun, so I try to be really nice to him) but this is pure politics, folks.
There’s no evidence that McNerney has turned down any specific requests to debate.
Instead, Andal’s camp says McNerney didn’t answer in kind the challenger’s letter calling for a series of debates. Gee, how rude of McNerney not to reply to a letter that was sent out to the media. Maybe McNerney should have sent candy and flowers, too.
But it is true that incumbents often put off debates until late in the campaign and keep them to a minimum. It denies the challenger the free media coverage and reduces risks of a misstatement by the incumbent. It also denies voters the time and opportunity to hear from both the candidates face-to-face.
McNerney’s campaign advisers may well be telling him to avoid early debates. It’s entirely possible.
But in fact, there have been no debates to skirt.
Andal can call for all the debates he wants but who will hold them? Does Andal expect McNerney to to put them on? Candidates don’t typically host these events and their opponents would view them as suspect anyway.
Nonpartisan civic groups such as chambers of commerce or the League of Women Voters usually negotiate successful candidate debates and issue invitations to appear. But most of these groups hold their events in the fall after people return from their vacations and the public begins to focus more closely on the November election.
As you would expect, McNerney spokesman Andy Stone said the congressman is eager to debate Andal and the campaign staff has been working with at least one San Joaquin organization and there will be others.
If McNerney is truly avoiding Andal, it will become evident soon enough.
As we do every election, the Times and the League of Women Voters (with its sponsors) plans to host a televised debate sometime in late September in this highly watched race among others in the East Bay. We usually hold the debates prior to the start of voting by mail, which starts Oct. 6 for the November general election.
Believe me, if McNerney or Andal puts up a fuss over attendance at this debate or any legitimate debate in the district, I’ll make sure you know about it.