Democrats Sponsor Legislation Urging Candidates to Debate

Candidates for Ohio auditor debate at the City Club of Cleveland. Photo: Donn Nottage / City Club of Cleveland
Candidates for Ohio auditor debate at the City Club of Cleveland. Photo: Donn Nottage / City Club of Cleveland
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For the first time since 1978, there will be no debates in the governor’s race, after talks between incumbent John Kasich and challenger Ed FitzGerald broke down. And Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Treasurer Josh Mandel – all Republican incumbents – have refused to debate their Democratic challengers.

Freshman Democratic State Rep. Mike Curtin of Columbus is a former reporter and the author of an almanac on Ohio politics. He said this is “a slap in the face to voters.”

“I’m surprised and disturbed," Curtin said. "I did not think I would live to see the day when essentially you have unanimous opinion of the officeholders of the party of power refusing to stand up and debate.”

Curtin and longtime State Rep. Vernon Sykes of Akron have cosponsored a resolution that would urge statewide candidates to debate, though there’s no way to require that in law. And Curtin dismissed the suggestion that debates are outdated, unproductive and largely ignored by most voters.

“The moral obligation to debate isn’t driven by Nielsen ratings. It’s driven by a respect for the public, a respect for 'We the People,'" he said. "Those are the people who own these offices. Many of them, a significant percentage of those people, look forward to debates, consider those debates to be, quite frankly, the high point of campaigns.”

But Curtin noted the resolution most likely won’t be voted on in the Republican-dominated House before the election, if at all.

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