You might think these political debates are a relatively simple thing. Plop 'em down in front of a crowd and pepper them with questions, right? Nothing's simple.
Turns out that every organization from the Basket Weavers Association to the Bad Acne Club wants to have the candidates in for an evening's discussion. While debates are key and the support of the Bad Acne Club crucial to winning an election, a candidate cannot spend all of his or her time doing these forums. When do you expect them to raise money?
So the candidates grapple with all these invitations. Working out when and where two (or more) opposing candidates will get together for a debate is akin to a divorced couple hammering out a child care agreement. These are people who don't particularly like each other, and certainly don't trust each other.
Thus, congressional candidates Peter Welch and Martha Rainville settled on a dozen or so debates for the season and issued a joint news release announcing them. One that didn't make the list was a forum put on by a group of Vermont business associations in Barre on Thursday. Trouble is that the organizers of that forum were spending $13,000 to have it filmed and aired on TV. It looked like it would be a forum with no candidates. Some arms were twisted, some pressure applied.
Rainville, the Republican, relinquished. Welch, the Democrat, wasn't happy. Rainville's campaign spokesman Brendan McKenna said there was a miscommunication with the organizers about whether the candidates had already committed to the debate and her camp felt they couldn't leave the local business groups hanging. Welch's campaign spokesman Andrew Savage said his camp believes Rainville broke the candidates' debate agreement, but Welch will be there.
- Terri Hallenbeck