Local members of Congress skip TV debates

10/08/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Today two local Congressional candidates called on a public television station to provide a full opportunity for them to be seen and heard by the public.

WEDU, the local Public Broadcasting System affiliate, has canceled televised debates because they say the incumbents, Ginny Brown-Waite and Gus Bilirakis, have declined to participate.

A representative from the television station said today that the candidates would be offered time to appear on a show that would include political analysts in a show that still has yet to be formed.

John Russell is a Democrat running against Brown-Waite in Florida’s 5th District, which encompasses parts of eight counties, including Pasco and Hernando. On a conference call today, he said WEDU was going against its policy of giving challengers full 30-minute access on their station if their opponent cancels on a debate appearance.

After the incumbents refused to debate, representatives from the TV station told the challengers that they would provide them two minutes of air time, and then augment their program with political analysis by a group of reporters and academics.

But Eddie Adams Jr., a Republican running against Kathy Castor in the Tampa area, said that wasn’t good enough.

At the time of the call, Adams said Castor had not agreed to a debate. But a spokesman for Castor told WMNF later in the day that the congresswoman would debate on television.

WEDU had hoped to broadcast 30-minute debates between the major candidates in all of the Congressional races in the Tampa Bay area. But among incumbents, only Polk County Republican Adam Putnam has so far agreed to debate his Democratic challenger.

Adams said the strategy was typical of an incumbent candidate, but added that with Congress’s popularity ratings in the tank, it was another reason why they might not want to meet the press.

Later in the conference call, Laura Turner, vice president of Communications for WEDU, said she shared the congressional challengers' frustration.

But Turner then said WEDU was not locked into the original idea of only giving the candidates two minute of airtime.

Other candidates affected include Democratic Congressional challengers Bill Mitchell in District 9 and Bob Hackworth in District 10. Mitchell canceled appearing on the call at the last moment.

Turner said Vice President of Production Jack Conley, currently on vacation, could agree to changing the format.

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US Congress race debates

This is just another example of Kathy Castor feeling "entitled" to that US Congressional seat. During the 2006 election cycle, she did not attend a single public speaking forum. All the others did, Al Fox, Les Miller, et al.. they were there, night after night. Kathy Castor spent her mommie's money and went to private fund raisers. Now that she is in office for 2 years, she mails campaign flyers, home, explaining them to be "Congressional communication with the voter @ home" [at tax payer expense, by the way] She still has not attended a single campaign event that allows any questions from regular voters. I have seen this guy, Eddie Adams Jr at two candidate forums He's pretty sharp. I want a Congressman who will listen to MY questions. I say we should vote out EVERY incumbent.... starting with those that won't attend candidate forums.

What debate?

John McCain "suspended" his campaign to "save" the economy and told Obama that he wasn't going to attend the planned debate. So what did Barack Obama do, he did a Ron Paul and said he was going anyway! Well McCain quickly "saved" the economy (I feel better) and made the debate. The morale of the story, do the debate with or with out all the candidates, you might be surprised who might find time to appear. Or sweeten the deal, the candidate that shows up gets a full hour to express themselves, unedited and un-harassed by a political forum. That is if their opponent doesn't show, cool.

Who's running the show? WEDU or Incumbents?

Re: Lee Nash...It looks like WEDU cancelled all shows because the incumbents bowed out THEN came up with a piddly two-minute alternative w/pundits dissecting the challengers' performance. Normally WEDU does what you suggested...allows full-time to those who show up. They are protecting the incumbents by not letting the public hear unfiltered presentations. Let's hope they reconsider and give the challengers reasonable airtime. Thank you John Russell and Eddie Adams for having a backbone! You've proven you fight for the people!

Vote Out Kathy Castor

I have contacted Kathy Castor's office numerous times and she never responds to me. I am a concerned constituent. I say vote her out. She doesn't deserve anyone's vote. She is terrible. Please do your duty on Nov 4, let her come home and find a job. Vote her out.