Voters deserve to hear from all candidates

Including all U.S. House 2nd District candidates in a debate would give voters the chance to compare them before election day.
Posted on Oct. 7, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

U.S. Senate candidates Richard Mourdock, Joe Donnelly and Andrew Horning debate on live statewide television Oct. 15 in Indianapolis.

Gubernatorial candidates John Gregg, Mike Pence and Rupert Boneham square off on TV Oct. 25 in Fort Wayne.

But candidates for the U.S. House in the 2nd District won’t debate on live television? They’ve cheating the voters they hope to represent.

The seat is up for grabs because Donnelly, a two-term Democrat, moved up to run for the Senate. Voters have three choices — Republican Jackie Walorski, a former member of the Indiana House; Democrat Brendan Mullen, a U.S. Army veteran; and Libertarian Joe Ruiz, a social worker.

WSBT Radio in South Bend invited Walorski and Mullen to debate, but not Ruiz. Walorski accepted. Mullen, however, objects to WSBT’s exclusion of Ruiz and won’t say if he’ll participate in the televised event.

Why won’t WSBT include Ruiz? Because he hasn’t sent any news releases to the newsroom and federal reports don’t indicate that he’s raised or spent any money, said the station’s news director, Bob Montgomery.

“We have no evidence he’s actually actively campaigning for the seat,” Montgomery told an Elkhart Truth reporter.

But a case can be made that Ruiz is campaigning cheaply and effectively. Ruiz has spoken with Truth reporter Tim Vandenack and scheduled a meeting this week with the newspaper’s editorial board. He’s also been the subject of several stories in the South Bend Tribune, he boasts an efficient website and he’s using YouTube to deliver his message.

As for the money, Ruiz said he’s raised about $5,000, which is the threshold for FEC reports.

WSBT can legitimately include Ruiz in its debate. His appearance on screen with Mullen and Walorski only forces them to sharpen and condense their views.

But if WSBT refuses to include Ruiz, it’s up to Mullen to debate Walorski one-on-one. Voters deserve the chance to compare them before election day.

Walorski can give voters that chance by agreeing to debate Mullen and Ruiz Oct. 28 on WNIT. She declined the invitation, but Indiana University South Bend’s American Democracy Project intends to stage the event with or without her.

She debated on WNIT two years ago, when she challenged Donnelly, the incumbent. Now, as the favorite, she sees no such need. Walorski said she’s doing the two debates that offered “the greatest number of voters” to see the candidates — those sponsored by WSBT Radio and the Wabash Chamber of Commerce.

About that Wabash debate, scheduled for Oct. 25 — an official says the chamber doesn’t have the ability to televise it.

So, from Walorski’s perspective, an appearance at the chamber of commerce in a town of fewer than 11,000 people 60 miles from Elkhart is a high-profile event. Wabash must be flattered.

Both Mullen and Walorski cast themselves as candidates who can reach across the aisle. Each promises to end gridlock in Congress. But neither will act in the best interests of the public and debate on television.

Sadly, it’s just more politics as usual.


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