Why no debates in governor's race? Sauerbrey ducks: Challenger avoids clash with Glendening except for one night -- perhaps.

October 03, 1998

POLITICAL posturing and campaign strategies may deprive the public of a chance to judge the two finalists for Maryland's top office in face-to-face confrontations. That's disgraceful.

It is a shameful act, born out of cold calculation that it is better to hide behind the safety of warm and fuzzy commercials than to risk exposing ideas in a free-wheeling televised forum.

That is the sad state of the governor's race. Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey seems to be avoiding debates. Whenever Gov. Parris N. Glendening suggests a time, Ms. Sauerbrey can't work it in. Or she blames Mr. Glendening for throwing up obstacles.

Ms. Sauerbrey hurts the electorate she claims to hold in high regard. She rejects the free flow of ideas in open discussion in favor of manipulative advertising crafted by her media pros.

Thirteen debate dates were suggested by the Glendening camp. To no avail. Never before have governor candidates rejected debate offers on Maryland public TV. The only agreed-upon forum at this stage is Oct. 23 at College Park.

Why is Ms. Sauerbrey -- a vocal exponent of open expression of opinions -- so reluctant to put her ideas up against Mr. Glendening's? Is she afraid she can't win such a matchup? That didn't prove the case four years ago, when she more than held her own in debates.

Ms. Sauerbrey should reconsider her duck-and-hide strategy. It ill serves the public, including her supporters. It is ill-befitting a potential governor.

Mr. Glendening should also reconsider his decision not to appear at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Conference Ocean City on Oct. 12. This event is traditionally the kickoff for gubernatorial debates. He may be right in expecting a partisan crowd and partisan moderators, but so what? It would be a chance to take on Ms. Sauerbrey.

Voters deserve to hear from the nominees for governor in face-to-face discussions. It is time to stop this silliness and let the debates begin.

Pub Date: 10/03/98

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