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Lt. Gov. Debate Canceled Following Rules Dispute

Rosalind Helderman

One of only two debates in the race for lieutenant governor this year has been canceled after campaigns for incumbent Republican Bill Bolling and challenger Democrat Jody Wagner could not agree over debate rules.

No shock here: The Wagner camp is blaming Bolling, the Bolling camp is blaming Wagner, and organizers with host group the Prince William 100 say both campaigns were very good to work with and that they think neither is to blame.

Here's what happened, according to Prince William 100 program chairwoman Michelle Trenum. The two campaigns agreed some time ago to participate in a debate this Thursday. Since then, there have been a variety of discussions and negotiations over the debate's format and rules. About a week or two ago, the Bolling campaign came forward to ask that the debate rules include what is known as a "no-use" agreement, which bars both campaigns from using video of the debate on their websites and in ads.

The Wagner campaign did not want a "no-use" clause. Negotiations broke down over the weekend and the two campaigns, first Wagner, then Bolling, put out press releases insisting the other was responsible for the demise of the debate. Says Trenum: "It's just one of those things. They could not resolve their differences."

Each of the gubernatorial debates have included such a "no use" clause, which is designed to protect candidates from seeing snippets of debate footage show up in campaign ads. After a similar kerfuffle over the clause in the attorney general's race in June, the two candidate's in that race agreed to a modified clause in which both campaigns agreed they could post video from the debate but only if they used whole answers--rather than quick clips or edited snippets. Wagner's campaign said she proposed a similar rule to Bolling as a compromise but he said no thanks.

A key question: Was there a commitment by both campaigns to attend? Or was the commitment contingent on agreement over the rules? The Wagner campaign insists the former is true. The Bolling campaign says it was the latter. Trenum, diplomatically, says both campaigns had committed to the date but negotiations over small issues have continued since that happened and that she could see both campaign's perspective on the issue.

Whoever is to blame, here's the upshot. It now looks like there will be only one LG debate and it will be in Roanoke. "It's a definite disappointment," Trenum said

By Rosalind Helderman  |  September 21, 2009; 4:44 PM ET
Categories:  2009 Attorney General's Race , 2009 Lieutenant Governor's Race , Election 2009 , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

Clearly, Bill Bolling is very nervous about the excellent message about his lack of presence as Lt. Gov. Otherwise, why would they be worried about "no use" anyway?

Thanks Bill! Depriving NoVA from an opportunity to get to know two candidates not from our neck of the state....not very smart, and you sure look small for doin' it!

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | September 21, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Typical Jody Wagner. Screw it up and blame somebody else. Maybe she heard there was going to be a math portion.

Posted by: GoNOVA | September 21, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree with GoNOVA. This is fairly typical. It's interesting to me that a few weeks ago in Buena Vista Mrs. Wagner called out Lt. Governor Bolling for not agreeing to debate. Mr. Bolling agrees to debate, but she backed out due to a rules disagreement. In races of this caliber, it seems to me that the no use clause is fairly typical. It is a shame that a compromise could not be reached, however I wish Mrs. Wagner would start to take more responsibility for her own actions. I hope that the debate in Roanoke works out, because people need to see Mrs. Wagner for what she really is.

Posted by: Savanna09 | September 21, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Jody Wagner made unreasonable demands and threw a hissy fit when Bill Bolling decided not to give in to her petty partisan maneuvering. It’s just that simple. A no-use clause is standard in pretty much all major political debates. It allows candidates to be more open and have a freer dialogue because they don’t need to worry about every little phrase being taken out of context and used in a political ad. For her to say that Bolling is ‘withdrawing’ is just dishonest.

Imagine if Jody Wagner had demanded that all candidates have to wear a multi-colored clown wig, or that any Republican candidate only gets 10 seconds on each question. Of course Bolling wouldn’t agree to that, and he’s not withdrawing by not agreeing to that. It’s kind of an extreme example, but it clearly illustrates the principle.

But honestly, is Jody’s dishonesty a surprise? We’ve seen her be dishonest from the very beginning of the campaign, from presenting inflated and shoddy budget numbers, to abdicating responsibility for her errors. The fact is, what she is doing here goes beyond simple partisan hackery and ventures into the area of a flat out lie. Bill Bolling did NOT withdraw from this debate, Jody made unreasonable demands, and the sides could not agree on the rules.

And also, let’s not forget, the candidates gave their word that the rules negotiations would stay secret. Jody broke her word, and sent out a press release on a subject she promised to keep private. If she can’t keep her word on small issues like this, why should we believe she’ll keep her campaign promises, or even more fundamentally, be an honest and moral leader for Virginia?

Posted by: GMoe | September 21, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Jody Wagner had just better that the President has a golden parachute for her like Don Beyer.

LG Bolling is well on his way to another term. Virginians want someone they trust who can help us bring jobs to Virginia, and Bolling has a plan. Wagner has double-talk and obfuscation.

Posted by: AnotherConcernedCitizen | September 21, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

A compromise that makes sense would be to agree to post all of the debate on the campaigns' website, not snippets so things can't be taken out of context--- and so ads can't be made out of the footage. That way we- the voters- win and get to watch the two people running for Lt Gov. Both Wagner and Bolling are to blame here.

Posted by: ChrisD4 | September 22, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

What is Bill Bolling scared of?

I agree that quick soundbites (a few seconds) can be distorting and make it seem like a candidate thinks the moon is made of green cheese. So the "whole answer" rule, already in use for other debates, sounds like a good remedy. It has obviously worked for both Democrats and Republicans in the governors' debates.

Why is Bolling scared of having "whole answers" quoted, which would automatically provide full context?

It seems to me that as the ONLY incumbent in all three races he is running scared, because he has a record to defend and is having trouble doing so. Hardly a profile in courage.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | September 22, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Those of you making apologies for Bill Bolling and blaming Jody Wagner for this--please READ the article. I know that's tough for most of you screaming thug town hall types, but you might be surprised what comes to light when you accept the facts that are based in reality.

Posted by: DouginMountVernon | September 22, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Doug,

Kind of funny you're talking about screaming thug town hall types, you've been trolling Virginia blogs for years now.

Jody Wagner wanted to change long standing rules and wouldn't participate in a debate unless she could use the footage afterwards. She then broke her word and blabbed about negotiations she gave her word to keep silent on.

The 'facts based in reality' are that Jody Wagner has been lying and distorting since the beginning on this campaign, and it's clear she'll sacrafice any morals or values she has to eke out a victory. It's disgusting to watch.

Posted by: GMoe | September 23, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

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