Recently, Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli has been promoting the idea of a series of debates between himself and Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe. The Cuccinelli campaign has suggested fifteen debates across the commonwealth in a variety of locations including one in the Shenandoah Valley, in the city of Harrisonburg.
However, so far the McAuliffe campaign has not accepted this idea. As a result, the Cuccinelli camp has run a series of ads on Facebook and elsewhere insisting that Virginians deserve a multitude of opportunities to hear from and learn about their choices for governor in November.
Now, I absolutely agree that debates serve as an important tool in campaigning and a handful of lively contests are exceedingly valuable. For that reason, I wrote against my own representative back in 2010 when he refused to attend a debate sponsored by James Madison University. Should McAuliffe agree to at least a few debates? Yes, a thousand times, yes!
Unfortunately in this situation, Cuccinelli has fallen into the same trap as Representative Goodlatte did three years prior; the debate ought to be used as a forum to allow all candidates that will appear on the ballot to express his or her opinions. Goodlatte would not debate back in 2010 because he only faced third party opposition. Cuccinelli wants to debate in 2013 but according to fellow blogger Rick Sincere, plans to exclude at least one other candidate, Libertarian Party nominee Rob Sarvis. This news is deeply disappointing.
This whole situation has echoes back to the national stage. After Ross Perot’s performance during the presidential elections, Republican and Democratic operatives got together to make certain that independent and third party candidates would be excluded from future debates. They created a monopoly among their parties. After the Green, Libertarian, Constitution, and Justice Parties weren’t invited to take part in the 2012 Presidential debates, an organization called Free & Equal hosted a debate where all of the candidates, along with the two major party candidates, were invited to participate. Not surprisingly, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney chose to attend.
I applaud the Cuccinelli campaign in their effort to bring the candidates to a vast number of citizens across Virginia. However, to exclude any eligible candidate based upon his or her party (or lack thereof) is unacceptable. Debates are a great thing, but to be legitimate, they must allow all of candidates the chance to express their opinions.