Warner Will Not Debate Gilmore on Statewide TV
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."
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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