Stop debating about debating, just debate
The power of incumbency is strong, especially in Nebraska where the incumbents are usually Republicans.
That’s because there were 584,173 registered Republicans in 2016. There were only 370,091 Democrats, 247,340 nonpartisans and 11,361 Libertarians. Challenging the incumbent is often an uphill battle.
Yes, Democrats Jim Exon and Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson were all elected Governors and U.S. Senators. But those three guys were also centrists who managed to get elected thanks to a strong bloc of Republicans in Omaha.
The numbers of Democrats and nonpartisans has grown since then, but so have the Republicans.
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the underdog. In this case, state Senator Bob Krist who was a Republican who had to file as a Democrat after his attempt to form a new political party was thwarted by state law—supported by Governor Pete Ricketts but later tossed out by the court—that required an exorbitant 100,000-plus petition signatures. Krist’s campaign spokesman, Dan Parsons, has worked for Republicans over the years as well.
A proposed Sept. 21 debate in Wayne has become the biggest blame game since Adam blamed Eve for that whole apple thing in the garden.
On one side you have the experienced Parsons and his hungry candidate. On the other, you have a young campaign spokesman working for the smug incumbent and taking marching orders from a former state Republican Party chairman who is also the campaign legal counsel. Sadly, the rhetoric has included some cheap shots. But, that’s politics.
Can’t we just have debates? The challenger needs them to get his message out to the most people possible and it’s best if he’s challenged. It will make his answers more meaningful if they are shaped in the fire of debate.
The incumbent would like to rest on his laurels and appear to be too busy sailing the ship of state to make time to go head-to-head with the challenger. After all, that big R behind his name is as good as gold in Nebraska.
The R’s run the state. They run the country … and we all know how well that’s working out so far.
So just debate already.
Senator Krist, if the incumbent doesn’t show up, then do battle with an empty chair. You’ll still get your message out.
And Governor Ricketts, if you don’t want to take the time to let people know who you are and where you stand on issues, keep paying somebody to characterize the Krist campaign as “the failing campaign” and call your opponent the “desperate candidate.”
I must ask if you have the numbers to back that up? Maybe you’ve seen the numbers. Maybe it’s not the Krist campaign that is falling behind.
The latest sticking point is a scheduled Sept. 21 debate in Wayne. It’s the first since the candidates squared off at the State Fair and was to be the second of three to which Ricketts had agreed. The third one, a joint appearance to a group in Omaha, isn’t really going to be a debate.
Krist and Parsons had called for a change in format for the Wayne debate from a planned economic development conversation to more of a general debate that would be broadcast by public television.
Former state Republican Chairman Mark Fahleson, a Lincoln attorney who is listed as Ricketts campaign counsel, has entered the fray and criticized Krist for his opposition to the debates original media partners. He accused Krist of working to undermine the debate from the beginning and said if the “obstinate stonewalling continues, there will be no debate.”
In a 12:04 a.m. news release 10 days before the debate, the Ricketts’ camp released a statement headlined “Krist Campaign Cancels Wayne Debate.” They claim Parsons missed a midnight deadline to set a date to talk about the debate.
In a news release 10 hours later, Parsons assured that Krist has not changed his plans or willingness to participate in the Wayne debate. He also noted that C-SPAN had just contacted the campaign with interest in broadcasting the debate nationwide.
I can’t say that I blame Krist for trying to shuffle what would be an otherwise stacked deck. The Ricketts campaign wanted News Channel Nebraska to be the media partner, the news outlet owned by former Republican State Senator and Ricketts’ supporter Mike Flood.
Parsons said that Ricketts was backing away after the Wayne Area Economic Development (WAED) notified both campaigns that they asked the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) to produce, moderate and broadcast the event across their statewide network.
Luke Virgil, Executive Director of WAED, said their sponsorship of the proposed debate “is predicated on fairness for and impartiality towards both campaigns. Wayne Area Economic Development’s primary purpose in hosting/sponsoring a gubernatorial debate has been (and will remain) to expose a large majority of Nebraskans to both candidates and to create a well-informed electorate.”
So, again I say, let’s just debate.