I was inspired to write this by a recent Facebook post I came across, which initially touted an upcoming debate between Republican candidates for governor. One of those sharing the post was making the statement that Larry Hogan would be a no-show, and further discussion centered on why he would miss it.
But one commenter asked the following:
Why should (Larry Hogan) debate? Please someone provide me some legitimate reason.
So I responded:
Because to not do so gives the impression he has something to hide. Remember, perception is reality despite the fact we’re dealing with primary voters (who tend to be more attuned to the situation.)
I wanted to add a little more context to what I was saying, so here is the history of Hogan’s campaign.
I would argue Larry made the decision to jump into the race several months prior to his actual January announcement. One thing which convinced me of the inevitability was his farm tour of the Eastern Shore as the debate over phosphorus regulations was raging. That tour was conducted in October, so we can start the timeline then.
After the holidays came and went, the first joint appearance by the candidates was the Fox45 debate in Baltimore January 16 – an event Hogan was invited to but decided to skip. (At the time he had not formally announced, though.) It’s set up a pattern where pre-scheduled events have precluded Hogan’s participation in joint appearances such as the Charles County Lincoln-Douglass Dinner and a radio debate hosted by WCBM’s Pat McDonough.
The only joint appearance Larry has made was with fellow candidate David Craig at an event where no press was allowed – not even cell phones. While it wasn’t billed as a debate, fellow candidate Ron George was upset at not being invited. And perhaps this is a sign that Hogan will begin making more joint appearances.
It’s understandable that candidates can’t be everywhere at once, but the reasons I think Hogan needs to debate are twofold: first, to explain his position on issues which are off his economic message, such as education, the environment, and so forth, and secondly to prepare himself for the joint appearances he will have to make in the general election to get his message out. There will be several debates between the candidates leading up to the November election, so Larry needs to be ready.
Obviously the political experts would have you believe that, as the frontrunner, you avoid debates because you have more to lose than the other person. For years I lived in a Congressional district where the Democrat incumbent would follow that strategy to the letter and never debate her Republican opponent, yet be rewarded with re-election time after time. But what may be politically successful isn’t always right, and that’s why I’m speaking out on this. People should be informed without having to pull teeth to get the facts.
We are hoping all of the GOP gubernatorial candidates show up for our April 12 Wicomico County Lincoln Day Dinner. It won’t be a formal debate, but at least we may have a chance to compare and contrast the candidates in one place.