A series of debates seems like a good idea. After all, both men are little known outside of Staunton and even there voters weren't aware of their views on state issues like transportation, the state budget, and job creation. Debates could help candidates dispel whispers such as Bell being known as "NO! and NO SHOW" by some who've watched his time on City Council.
After the Marrow/Landes debate earlier this week (hopefully there will be more in the 25th) I wondered about the status of the proposed debates for the 20th District. It seems that although Bell agreed to the debates, he (or his negotiator Chris Saxman) is having trouble finding open dates, a suitable format, and raising all sorts of other objections. Nearly a month and a half has passed and, to my knowledge, the campaigns aren't much closer to agreeing to a debate schedule or even a solitary debate.
All this raises troubling questions. Why is Dickie Bell resisting debates and what is he hiding from voters? Is Mr. Bell his own man or is somebody pulling his strings? If he won't talk to voters and address issues now, would he do so if elected? How can a candidate in our "government by the people" hide from those very people?
Several things are becoming increasingly apparent: the local Republican powers that be are a bit afraid of how their candidate will perform if put on the same stage as his opponent. Perhaps they worry about his ability to articulate their stands on issues? Or maybe they wonder about his well-known short fuse? Could they fear dirty laundry flapping in the sunlight of a debate?
With just five weeks until Election Day, it appears the GOP/Bell strategy is to run the clock out on debates, put up a bunch of signs in the typical GOP lawns, and bank on party zombies in the red 20th pushing the Bell button even though they are clueless about the man, his background, and his views. Sad to say, with a complacent local media and dozy voters, that game plan just might work. If so, our democracy is diminished and our next delegate will be a man we hardly know. And who hardly knows us!