It is, unequivocally, a great disservice to any voter when he or she is not afforded the opportunity to hear each of their balloted candidates debate pertinent issues in a public forum. An informed voter is vital to a healthy representative government, and history has proven that an open debate is one of the best methods to allow constituents to hear the candidates and make an educated vote.
The most egregious injustice, though, is a multi-term incumbent that has denied repeated requests by two challengers to a debate. Any constituency that is represented by a candidate facing reelection that refuses to debate (let alone acknowledge) opposing candidates, is undoubtedly poorly represented.
In case you are still wondering, yes, I’m referring to the 7th Congressional District’s Representative Andre Carson. Rep. Carson’s office has ignored repeated requests from my office for a multi-candidate debate, and blatantly refused a request for a public debate by the Republican challenger, Catherine Ping. Efforts were made on my office’s part to find an impartial host for a debate as well, to no avail.
I take issue with this not only as a candidate in this race, but as a voter, as well. As voters that take the time away from family, school, or work to cast a vote for the individual that we want to represent us in Washington D.C. for the next two years (the individual that not only represents us, but is paid by us, as well), it is necessary that we have the opportunity to hear each and every candidate that we will see listed on our ballots in November. I’m confident that I am not the only voter that would like to know where each candidate on my ballot stands on fundamental issues before I walk into that booth, rather than being forced to vote for incumbents, name recognition, or political parties.
As a candidate, it’s insulting to dedicate the time, finances, and personal sacrifices to challenge an incumbent, only to be denied the opportunity to confront my representative in an open forum regarding the pertinent issues that face our country and our community, and issues in which Rep. Carson is directly responsible for addressing.
To be sure, there are many reasons an incumbent may invoke to excuse themselves from a debate. Some wish to avoid the opportunity to stick their foot in their mouth, while others prefer to keep any and all attention away from their challengers, preferring instead to be that “automatic representative.” Rest assured though, any reason an incumbent may have to exclude themselves from a public debate absolutely reflects poorly on the candidate, and on that candidate’s regard for his or her constituents.
Ultimately, refusing to debate a challenger portrays an incumbent as being unaccountable to the people he or she is paid to represent. At a time when the federal debt exceeds $17 trillion dollars, we’re dropping bombs in multiple countries, the real economy is floundering, health care costs are rising faster than wages, our failed War on Drugs and War on Terror bleeds us of personal liberty while bestowing our future with unfathomable debt, and corruption and cronyism run rampant, accountability is obligatory. At a time when poll after poll shows public trust and approval of Congress (with both parties holding majorities between houses) hovering at all-time lows, incumbents should be held accountable to voters and challengers alike, rather than successfully hiding behind donors and political allies.
Chris Mayo, Candidate, U.S. House, IN-7, Libertarian