Editorial Summary: Nebraska
The Lincoln Journal star. August 25, 2022.
Editorial: Nebraskanians deserve to see the candidates debate
Political debates are a long-standing Nebraska tradition, usually in a series of contests between candidates for high office that begins at the State Fair.
But there will be no State Fair gubernatorial debate this year or likely any other opportunity for Democratic candidate Carol Blood to meet her Republican opponent Jim Pillen on a debate platform.
Why? Because Pillen refuses to debate and has declined invitations from the fair and NTV News. He did the same during the GOP primary campaign, participating in “forums” but refusing debates where journalists would have asked the questions.
Contrary to the Pillen campaign’s unverifiable claim that he was “the most accessible gubernatorial candidate in Nebraska history,” the debates are not about in-person accessibility and one-on-one contact with voters.
On the contrary, they perform an important function in the “job interview” which is a political campaign.
By bringing the candidates together on a stage, with questions posed by an independent moderator, the debates first allow voters to see how the candidates elucidate their positions and policies outside of the controlled environments of the campaign event.
Then, when the candidates interact, they give voters an idea of how the candidates think and communicate while defending or asserting their positions, qualities as important in judging a potential incumbent as their positions on the issues.
There is, it must be recognized, a risk to be discussed.
During the 1988 U.S. Senate State Fair debate, Senator David Karnes made a deadly campaign blunder by saying, “We need fewer farmers” in Nebraska, essentially handing the race over to Bob Kerrey two months before voters go to the polls.
There is also another, even less democratic, reason for Pillen’s refusal to appear with Blood in a forum that would be widely seen across the state.
Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 250,000 voters. Without any widely visible forum that could give visibility to the Democratic nominee and expose the GOP nominee’s potential vulnerabilities, these Republicans will almost certainly mark their ballots for their party’s nominee.
The chance that the debates could help the Democrat didn’t seem to bother GOP candidates and campaigns, which have participated in gubernatorial debates since at least 1980 — with the exception of 2010, when the top Democratic nominee dropped out. race and Gov Dave Heineman, who had debated four years earlier, did not meet the second candidate.
That shouldn’t worry Pillen and his handlers either. As the candidate for the state’s dominant party, he should participate in at least one debate with Blood to, if nothing else, demonstrate what kind of leader he would be if he took Nebraska’s highest office.
Avoiding debate may be smart policy, but it’s not good for people.
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