Even if a candidate for statewide office has a full schedule of personal appearances across Kansas, the vast majority of Kansas voters never see a candidate in person.
That’s why media coverage — especially televised debates that bring opposing candidates together to answer questions and share opinions — is so important to providing voters the information they need to cast responsible ballots.
Unfortunately, Kansas voters are getting almost no opportunity to evaluate their candidates for governor in a debate format. The only debate that has been held so far was an untelevised event sponsored by WIBW radio of Topeka during the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
Only one other debate opportunity appears to be on the table, according to representatives of the two major-party candidates — Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback and Democratic Kansas Sen. Tom Holland. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sonntag said Friday that campaign has accepted an invitation for a second debate that would be broadcast at noon Oct. 13, again on WIBW radio, during the daily “On the Other Hand” talk show and moderated by that show’s hosts, Raubin Pierce and Megan Mosack. The debate also would be televised on WIBW.
The Holland campaign initially turned down the opportunity to appear on what spokesman Seth Bundy called “an extremely right-wing talk show.” However, Bundy said Friday the campaign was working to negotiate a more neutral debate format involving WIBW radio and television.
If that effort is unsuccessful, Kansas voters may go through the entire election cycle without a single opportunity to view a televised debate between the two major-party candidates for governor. Holland’s campaign has proposed a total of four debates, one in each of the state’s congressional districts, but Jones-Sontag said Friday that Brownback’s calendar is “jam-packed” with personal appearances and it would be difficult to fit in any other debates before the Nov. 2 election.
They should try harder.
Focusing on personal appearances and shunning televised debates may serve a candidate’s political goals, but it does not serve the voters of Kansas. The only opportunity most Kansas voters have to evaluate the gubernatorial candidates is through televised debates. The debates not only showcase the candidates but provide an important forum for discussion of key issues facing the state. To deny Kansas voters that opportunity shows a disregard for their responsibility to cast informed ballots in the race that will determine who will lead their state for at least the next four years.
Time is growing short and calendars are getting full, but both Brownback and Holland owe it to voters to stage at least two or three non-partisan televised debates between now and the general election. Anything less would be an insult to Kansas voters.