While Andy Harris was given the hugest of electoral breaks by the withdrawal of Democrat challenger Wendy Rosen – who, unless Maryland Democrats can pull a Robert Torricelli via the courts, will remain on the ballot despite dropping out – I believe he shouldn’t have pulled out of the various candidate debates.
My view is shared by Libertarian Muir Boda, who probably stood the most to gain by having yet another empty chair on the Democratic side. In a release, Boda noted:
After observing the withdrawal of Democrat Wendy Rosen from the race amid voter fraud allegations, I had not anticipated another action of disrespect to the voters in the 1st District. Congressman Harris’ actions are simply arrogant cowardice as he is obviously afraid to debate me.
Congressman Harris’ pulling out of all forums is a complete slap in the face to all the voters and the organizations that are taking their time to organize the forums by securing a place to have the forum, organizing resources to record the forums and to the those who desired to attend and to participate in the discussion of the future of country.
Congressman Harris has many questions to answer. For instance, we need an explanation on why, as a so called fiscal conservative he would support adding another $1 Trillion to our national debt. Or where does he really stand on the TSA, the Patriot Act and the NDAA.
I truly don’t think it’s fear of debating Muir on Andy’s part, but answering some of these questions Boda brings up would be helpful to me in understanding why Harris acted in a less conservative manner than normal – particularly on the continuing resolution vote.
Alan Girard of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which was a lead sponsor of the September 24 debate, had this to say as well:
We are disappointed voters won’t hear the views of candidates for Congress on “Farming and Protecting the Environment,” the topic of a scheduled debate we had planned with the Maryland Farm Bureau and the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Salisbury University. Mr. Harris had agreed to participate in the Sept. 24 debate, but this week told us he is withdrawing from this and all other scheduled debates.
Without Mr. Harris’ participation, and uncertainty about other candidates’ participation, staging a debate seems unproductive, and we are announcing the cancellation of the debate which was to be held at Salisbury University. We apologize to voters who planned to attend.
We are pleased, however, that Mr. Harris has agreed to announce a schedule of public town meetings around the 1st District at which citizens can pose questions to the Congressman.
Let’s face it, though: I don’t think the CBF was going to do anything but sandbag Andy because they vehemently disagree with his balanced approach to environmental issues. If it were up to the most radical members of the CBF we’d all be forcably moved into tiny enclaves far away from the pristine waters at the mouth of the Susquehanna. Moreover, I couldn’t be there anyway to make sure people knew what really happened.
While I’m happy to see that Harris isn’t abandoning the public debate entirely, I believe he’s making a big mistake by canceling his participation in these debates and forums, unfriendly as the territory may be. Fairly or not, Andy has received a reputation of being callous and aloof (lifesaving traffic stops notwithstanding) and dropping out of these head-to-head contests only enhances the perception. Certainly Harris does his share of townhall-style events around the district during periods when Congress is out of session, but a compare-and-contrast was something he shouldn’t be afraid of in a district essentially drawn for him.
On the other hand, I learned via Duke Brooks that Delaware voters will be treated to not one, not two, but ten (!) debates between U.S. Senator Tom Carper and Republican challenger Kevin Wade. (Note to Ben Cardin: the ante has been upped.) Of course, the devil is in the details but Delaware voters will certainly have ample opportunity to get a picture of where the two hopefuls (and whatever minor party candidates are invited to participate) stand on issues near and dear to Delaware voters. It may not be Lincoln v. Douglas but they will be better served by the opportunity to attend in person.