Editorial: Too many candidates chose not to debate

Posted 11/3/22

A frustrating new trend emerged this election season, as a disturbing number of candidates declined, refused or were unavailable to take part in public campaign forums with their opponents.

Nearly …

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Editorial: Too many candidates chose not to debate

Posted

A frustrating new trend emerged this election season, as a disturbing number of candidates declined, refused or were unavailable to take part in public campaign forums with their opponents.

Nearly all are registered Republicans.

In Little Compton, the entire Republican slate declined an invitation. In Portsmouth, the full slate was unavailable or had conflicts. In Bristol and Warren, several General Assembly candidates were too busy to find the time. In East Providence, several more were unavailable or never responded to invitations.

Those responses were not universal. A handful of Republicans running for General Assembly, like Allyn Meyers, Ken Mendonca, Rhonda Holmes, David O’Connell and Scott Fuller, all showed up and went toe to toe with Democrats who are either incumbents or considered favorites for their seats. So did Republicans running for town council in Barrington and Bristol.

Those were bright spots in the campaign season, with candidates willing to be seen, face tough questions, challenge the incumbents and be accountable for their opinions and positions. That’s what voters should expect before they decide who will represent them in their government — a dynamic which is at risk of being forgotten in this divisive political climate. Despite popular perceptions, many people don’t have their minds made up.

The folks who dominate the airwaves and the social media feeds typically represent the extremes of our political spectrum (extremes which are getting more extreme all the time). They see the world as red or blue, left or right. Yet the vast majority of Americans remain somewhere in the middle. They may lean one direction or the other, but they often vote for the person who gives them the most confidence, who they feel speaks to them most clearly.

That cannot happen when they don’t know the candidates, have never seen them, and never get a chance to see them. Live candidate forums are one of the critical ways they can meet these candidates.

In Little Compton, we hosted a candidates forum in front of an enthusiastic crowd last Thursday night. We live-streamed it, and we made the recording public for viewing after the fact. At press deadline, it had been viewed nearly 250 times — not staggering numbers, but not insignificant for a rural community of about 1,500 homes.

We will be back hosting candidate forums two years from now, often in partnership with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. Candidates can start planning on it now. Hopefully more will be available in 2024.

2022 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.