Mike DeWine should debate Nan Whaley for the benefit of voters

Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s decision to skip the debates leading up to the November 8 election is a slap in the face to his Democratic opponent Nan Whaley.

It’s a thing.

Far more outrageous, his actions show a disregard for the will of Ohio voters and the democratic process.

The refusal to debate publicly is also part of a worrying trend, nationwide, of Democrats and Republicans alike deviating from traditional American norms.

People want and need a debate, but it seems DeWine is content to run out of time until Election Day. A recent USA TODAY Network Ohio/Suffolk University poll shows that 84% of likely voters in Ohio want the state’s top political candidates to compete in one-on-one debates.

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Our boards must conclude that DeWine is so confident that the fundamentals of the race are in his favor, that he doesn’t have to worry about what you think.

Avoiding debate is a disservice

Last week, DeWine and Republican Senate candidate JD Vance officially declined to participate in the Ohio Debate Commission proceedings scheduled for October. DeWine argued that Ohioans already know where he stands on key issues ranging from the economy to guns and abortion.

Left - Mike DeWine, a Republican, is the Governor of Ohio.  Right- Nan Whaley is the Democratic candidate for governor.

Meanwhile, Vance, who has since agreed to take part in two debates with his Democratic challenger Tim Ryan in Cleveland and Youngstown, rejected the Ohio Debate Commission debates because its executive director Jill Zimon is a “donor Liberal Tim Ryan who has repeatedly and publicly defamed Republicans,” according to his campaign.

The Ohio Debate Commission is a non-profit organization whose The inspector, The Akron Beacon Log, The Despatch of Columbus and other media organizations, voting rights groups and foundations are supporters.

Jill Zimon:Mike DeWine and Nan Whaley Should Give Ohioans What They Want, Debate

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Representative Tim Ryan (left) and Republican candidate JD Vance (right).

While we reject Vance’s “too liberal” narrative for dodging the Ohio Debate Commission debates, we’re glad to see that voters will at least have the chance to see him debate Ryan before the mid-terms.

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DeWine tricks voters out of the debate

DeWine owes voters no less.

It would be only the second time since 1978 that there has been no gubernatorial debate.

Incumbent Governor John Kasich did not debate Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald in 2014.

Incumbent Gov. John Kasich’s decision not to debate Democrat Ed FitzGerald in 2014 was the other.

DeWine’s refusal to debate the first woman ever to be gubernatorial reflects badly on him and robs both Whaley and Ohioans of a truly historic moment.

It might seem like good political strategy not to debate given DeWine’s big lead over Whaley in the polls (53% to 39%, according to the USA TODAY Network/Suffolk poll), fundraising and name recognition.

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DeWine likely thinks he has little to gain and more to lose by taking on Whaley in a public debate where he could make a costly blunder.

The incumbent governor is unlikely at this point to defend attacks on his record or answer questions about former President Donald Trump, abortion, gun control or his handling of the COVID pandemic. -19.

After:Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has a big lead in the re-election bid over Nan Whaley in new poll

But none of these reasons are good for misleading voters. DeWine must consider the value of the debates to voters rather than his personal and political gains alone.

Governor Mike DeWine speaks during a news conference about a mass shooting that left ten people dead, including the shooter, and 26 injured along the 400 block of E. Fifth Street, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.

Debates are not a game of “gotcha”

The debates are the equivalent of a job interview for the candidates in the running.

They allow voters to see how quickly candidates can think things through, handle criticism, and answer tough questions. Voters can compare and contrast the style of candidates in real time. And in these times of misinformation and misleading campaign ads, the debates offer voters, especially those with limited information, insight into who the candidates really are, their understanding of the story and the issues, their skills and even their temperament.

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Broadcasters can tell you that national and local debates are far from rated.

Some might argue that they don’t change votes and are too often about “gotcha” moments for viral social media and political ads rather than real conversations and news. However, they can produce defining moments, like this year’s angry head-to-head showdown between former state treasurer Josh Mandel and businessman Mike Gibbons during a Republican primary debate for the nomination. Senate.

Moments like this may not move diehard supporters, but they are known to sway undecided or hesitant voters.

Ohio candidates must ‘not be afraid’ to defend their positions

Candidates must be willing to debate publicly and not shy away from fear of scrutiny, fact-checking, or a big lead in the polls. They must be prepared to debate issues and defend their beliefs, their political positions and the accuracy of their statements, regardless of their opponent or the forum in which these things might be challenged.

Participating in debates shows respect for the democratic process and voters.

Republican Senator Rob Portman of Terrace Park (left) and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown

Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown understand this, which is why both still debated their opponents in their last election despite leading in the polls.

Portman in 2016 held three debates with former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, and Brown agreed to debate Republican Rep. Jim Renacci in 2018.

Both have withstood attacks on their track records and personal lives and answered tough questions, though they have little to personally gain from the debates. The two previous Republican governors before Kasich, George Voinovich and Bob Taft, also engaged in debates with their Democratic opponents before being easily re-elected.

Former Ohio Governor Bob Taft stands on the bike path at Little Miami State Park in Corwin, Ohio, Friday, April 15, 2022.

They were fearless and understood the importance of answering tough questions without their political handlers present and without carefully crafted scripts full of talking points.

They respected the critical role debates play in educating voters about where candidates stand on key issues. And they recognized their duty to serve as examples of how we engage civilly across differences.

Candidates who say no to debates are shirking that responsibility and setting a dangerous precedent by refusing to even engage with the other side. It is a departure from the tradition of civic debate and dissent and, therefore, a departure from the democratic norms that form the foundation of our nation.

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As our society becomes an increasingly closed echo chamber, we need more conversation between political ideologies and more thoughtful debate and discussion, not less.

DeWine should debate Whaley. He owes it to the voters of Ohio.

This editorial is signed by all of the editorial boards of USA TODAY Network Ohio, which includes Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository and 17 other affiliated news outlets across Ohio. Editorials are our boards’ factual assessment of issues important to the communities we serve. These are not the opinions of our reporting staff, who strive to be neutral in their reporting.

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