Press-Tribune Editorial board
May 7, 2010
The primary election is 18 days from today. There aren't too many contested races among the Democrats (there seldom are in Idaho), but there are oodles of candidates in the Republican primaries.
Such is the case with the race for governor. Incumbent Butch Otter has five opponents in the primary: Sharon Ullman, Rex Rammell, Tamara Wells, Walt Bayes and Ron "Pete" Peterson.
Recent polling indicates Otter would receive about 60 percent of the vote over Democrat Keith Allred in November, so it stands to reason he has nothing to gain by appearing in a televised debate with his GOP opponents. If anything, he runs the risk of making a gaffe or looking indecisive when asked a question - something his opponents could pounce on to boost their campaigns.
Like a football team with a 40-point lead in the fourth quarter, it makes no sense to take chances. Just run out the proverbial clock. So at least from a strategic standpoint, you can't blame Otter for turning down debate requests.
Not surprisingly, his opponents aren't happy. They're saying the governor isn't giving voters a fair chance to hear the candidates' views on important matters. They believe Otter's absence will result in fewer viewers. And considering many of these candidates have little money on which to campaign, televised debates are their only real chance to reach a large percentage of the voters.
You can't blame them for crying foul. Nor can you blame Otter for not participating, but you can take issue with the flimsy reason he gave. He sent a letter to the organizers of the May 18 Idaho Public Television debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Idaho Press Club saying he wasn't participating because Wells, Bayes and Peterson weren't invited. Those candidates didn't get invites because they didn't respond to requests for information about their campaigns or didn't meet criteria indicating they were running active campaigns.
The governor even took a poke at IPTV, saying since it gets public funding, it should invite all the candidates, regardless of how viable they may be.
Otter has the right to decline the invitation, but he should be forthright about why. And it seems far-fetched to believe that it's out of fairness to a few fringe candidates.
The Opinion posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.