Curran appears unexpectedly and late to debate Bennett CAMPAIGN 1994 -- ATTORNEY GENERAL

October 12, 1994|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Sun Staff Writer

Call it the debate that almost wasn't.

Richard D. Bennett, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, was the lone participant for the first hour in a radio debate last night on WCBM. The Democratic incumbent, J. Joseph Curran Jr., had canceled his appearance but showed up unexpectedly for the second hour.

Both candidates had agreed to the debate on WCBM several weeks ago, but on Monday Mr. Curran's campaign said he had a scheduling conflict and could be available only for an hour by telephone, WCBM news director Ken Maylath announced at the start of the show.

The station rebuffed that offer because it fell short of the original agreement -- a two-hour debate at WCBM's Owings Mills studio. "We also felt that this was unfair to Mr. Bennett, who had cleared his schedule to be with us," Mr. Maylath said.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Bennett made political hay of the news.

"This ploy of avoiding debates with the challenger doesn't cut it. As lawyers we fundamentally recognize that the basic precept of our profession is a debating of the issues," said Mr. Bennett, a former federal prosecutor for Maryland.

Mr. Curran, who is seeking a third term, said he was not ducking debates. In fact, he said, he took part in about five debates with Mr. Bennett and two Democratic challengers during the primary election campaign this summer.

Mr. Curran said he wanted to attend a political rally in Anne Arundel County last night and also to participate in at least part of the radio debate. He said he offered to call the radio station from a pay phone or make it to the studio an hour late. "They apparently didn't want me to do that," he said.

Mr. Curran decided to do it anyway, appearing at the studio 50 minutes late.

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