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Warner Will Not Debate Gilmore on Statewide TV

Anita Kumar

Former governor Mark R. Warner (D) will not participate in the only U.S. Senate debate this fall that was to be televised statewide.

Warner's opponent, former governor James S. Gilmore, had agreed to participate in the debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

"Mark Warner apparently does not want the people of Virginia to have an opportunity to understand clearly where he stands on the issues,'' Gilmore said in a statement. "I believe the people of Virginia have a right to see and hear candidates for public office discuss the issues."

Warner and Gilmore participated in their first debate last month at the Homestead Resort but it was not televised and only a few hundred people traveled to western Virginia to watch it. The two have agreed to a Sept. 18 debate, sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, that will be televised locally in Northern Virginia.

Kevin Hall, Warner's spokesman, said Warner had a scheduling conflict but will consider other debates.

"Governor Warner certainly respects the good work done by the League of Women Voters and we regret that we were not able to commit to their proposal,'' Hall said.

The League invited the candidates in June to participate in a debate to be produced in conjunction with WTVR, a CBS station, and WCVE, a PBS station, which were planning to make the broadcast available to all commercial and public television and radio affiliates statewide.

"We're very disappointed that we could not get both major senatorial candidates to agree to participate in a debate this year," said Olga Hernandez, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. "We believe that televised debates are one of the most effective ways for voters to learn about the candidates and their positions."

The campaigns had until Aug. 25 to respond to the invitation, which was not for a set date but for any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in September or October,

"Exposing voters to a rigorous debate of the critical issues facing this nation today is a cornerstone of the democratic election process in America," said Peter Maroney, vice president and general manager of WTVR. "It is regrettable that former Governor Warner has chosen to deny Virginians that opportunity by declining this statewide broadcast opportunity."

Gilmore's campaign said Gilmore had agreed to more than a dozen Senate debates but Warner only initially agreed to three, including the League debate. But Hall said Warner never agreed to the League debate.

"I think the people have a right to ask: What is Mark Warner hiding?,'' Gilmore said. "As for me, I will debate him any time and any place because I believe the people of Virginia are entitled to that kind of public discussion."

By Anita Kumar  |  August 28, 2008; 2:10 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Debates , Election 2008/U.S. Senate , James Gilmore III , Mark Warner  
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If Gilmore and Warner debated in July and will debate again on September 18th, isn't that headline grossly misleading?

Posted by: NoVA | August 28, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Gilmore: "Why won't he call? I thought our first debate went well."

Posted by: Ed | August 28, 2008 6:46 PM | Report abuse

My gosh, Warner is such a panzy......

Posted by: Jack | August 28, 2008 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Good update, Anita.

Posted by: NoVA | August 29, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

This article is highly informative.Last month Warner and Gilmore participated in thier first debate at last month that is not televised only few people watch that. Another debate sep 18,to be sponsored by Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce must be televised.

Posted by: nancyfernandez | August 30, 2008 3:55 AM | Report abuse

For the Gilmore camp to be complaining Warner refusing to do a debate is a little more than hypocritical as Gilmore refused to do a debate in the republican nomination. Before the convention to choose the republican nominee, Gilmore refused to debate Del. Bob Marshall and barely won the convention by less than 1 percentage point. Maybe Jim Gilmore knew that a debate in the GOP selection against Marshall would have been disastrous for his chances to win the convention. Maybe we could have had a different candidate other than Gilmore and the GOP's chances of success would be better than 10%,

Posted by: Scott G. | August 30, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Conventions are only a few thousand people if that. Campaigns typically talk one on one with all delegates. To try to compare that with millions of voters who will never meet either candidate is a bit of a stretch. If Warner doesn't want to debate in front of the press, he should just say so.

Posted by: Warren | August 30, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

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