MT Senate 2014: A Primary Debate for Some

Congratulations to the Great Falls (MT) Tribune for hosting a candidate debate between the Democrats running for U.S. Senate. Senator John Walsh, former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger, and rancher Dirk Adams have agreed to participate. I applaud them for taking part in the debate.

The debate is scheduled for Saturday May 3 at the Benefis East Campus Cameron Auditorium. It starts at 1:00 p.m.

On the other side of the aisle, it’s disappointing that two of the three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate either did not respond to the invitation or declined. Missoula state Rep. Champ Edmunds agreed to participate. The Tribune reported that Congressman Steve Daines “declined to participate” and newcomer Susan Cundiff “did not respond” to an invitation.

It was good to see that the Tribune allowed Edmunds a chance to respond to Daines’ declining to debate him.  Edmunds said:

I am disappointed that we didn’t get to hear why Daines voted for (the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) and allowed spying on Americans. I’d like to hear why he voted four times to raise debt ceiling before he voted against. I’d love to talk about why he voted to fund Obamacare, even though he says he’s against it.

There are probably a lot of voters who want to know how Daines would answer these questions.

Daines campaign spokesperson Brock Lowrance attempted to frame the non-participation from his boss this way:

Daines is actively reaching out to Montana voters through one-on-one meetings, “telephone town halls,” business roundtables and at Montana coffee sessions in Washington, D.C.

All those things are commendable, but they are all things he does (and we expect him to do) in his official duties. Debates are purely campaign. He should be there. His non-participation makes it look like he’s afraid he will get roughed up before the General Election. He’s the leader in all the polls; let’s hope he’s not trying to run out the clock already. One other thing that’s important is that I’ve seen Daines debate before, and he could really use some practice.

The most important thing for candidates to remember is that participating in debates is a civic responsibility. We need to applaud Walsh, Bohlinger, Adams, and Edmunds for taking that responsibility seriously.


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