The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

As Kaine, Kilgore spar, Potts seeks spot on dais; A1

Debate over gubernatorial debates heating up

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Yes, Virginia, there will be gubernatorial debates. How many, when and where they’ll be, however, remains a matter of, well, debate.

The fight over who, when and where escalated on Monday, as two of the three hopefuls on the Nov. 8 ballot took shots at former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the Republican nominee, over his decision to be in two debates without state Sen. H. Russell Potts, Jr., R-Winchester, who is running for governor as an independent.

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic contender for the governor’s mansion, chastised Kilgore for not agreeing to a debate that would have been televised statewide.

WSLS-10 in Roanoke had been trying to put together a debate that would be televised across the commonwealth by NBC affiliates.

But the station confirmed Monday that Kilgore and company had declined the offer, leading the Democratic camp to criticize its Republican opponent for “ducking” a second televised debate. The campaign maintains a separate Web site called “Jerry the Duck” that lists instances where the Kaine camp says Kilgore avoided debate.

“It’s hard to say what Jerry Kilgore is hiding from,” Kaine says in press release.

“But this pattern of avoiding debates should raise a red flag with the voters,” he says. “Virginia has a strong tradition of leadership and when a candidate running for the state’s highest office flinches again and again from the chance to stand on a stage with his opponents and share his vision for Virginia, he shows he is unworthy of carrying on that tradition.”

Meanwhile, back in Winchester, the Potts camp issued an appeal to supporters to pressure the Virginia Bar Association to let their man on the stage in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., for the debate the VBA is sponsoring in July.

The campaign sent an e-mail to supporters with the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of VBA President James Meath and Executive Vice President Breck Arrington, asking recipients to contact the two and “tell them to include all of the candidates in their debate.”

Newspapers around the state from Bristol to Northern Virginia have been editorializing in favor of Potts’ inclusion — a fact the candidate and his campaign aren’t reticent to point out.

Potts hasn’t been invited to either of the two sessions that Kilgore says he’ll attend, but says he will take part in eight others hosted by groups like WTOP radio in Washington, George Mason University in Fairfax and WVPT-51, the valley’s public television station.

Potts also signed on for a debate to be hosted by Liberty University, but, according to his campaign, it was canceled when Kilgore declined to participate. The cancellation couldn’t be independently confirmed Monday.

Kaine’s campaign has said in the past that it wouldn’t necessarily stay away from a debate just because Kilgore wouldn’t show.

For its part, the Kilgore camp again shrugged off the debate over debates as a sign that the other two campaigns are running scared.

“The first sign of a campaign in trouble is when it starts yapping endlessly about debates,” said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Kilgore will participate in two debates — the Virginia Bar Association Debate in July and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce in September. And while the candidate might accept another invitation down the road, it’s simply not that big of a deal, Murtaugh said.

“There are two debates on the books right now, there may be others. Tim Kaine should come up with some ideas and stop making an issue where there isn’t one,” Murtaugh said.