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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen


9.20.2006

 

Behind the debates

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

Comments:
Having done some of this arranging of debates before, I can say one thing in favor of all the candidates: no one, not Democrat or Republican, is trying to keep 3rd party or independent candidates out of the debates like Howard Dean did for so many years. Let the voters hear all the viewpoints, no matter how far out of the mainstream they are. Dean used the "I won't show if any candidate but the Republican is there" tactic to silence his critics on the left. Thank God he has gone to Washington! No we can hear what everyone running has to say.
 
Why does today's BFP editorial describe Scudder Parker's campaign as "keeping a low profile"? My sense is the campaign has been doing alot with the grassroots, as well as holding press conferences and sending press releases. But, BFP reporters rarely show-up or cover.
 
Parker approached a few of us at the fair and talked to us for about ten minutes. Seemed pleasant enough. Half an hour later none of us could remember a single thing he'd said. Sometimes you can be considered low profile just by not being very memorable.
 
blueprintvt, perhaps the difference between your "alot" and the correct "a lot" is the difference between "keeping a low profile" and leading a successful campaign.
 
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