ICYMI: Don’t let the election come quietly

op-edMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday.

There’s an unwritten rule in politics about debates: Incumbents shun them; challengers desire them.

As I wrote this article, I was thinking about two contests: the U.S. Senate race and the 2nd Congressional district race. The first debate in the Senate race will be held tomorrow at 11 am (it will be streamed here) and will feature incumbent Democrat Mark Warner and Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. Robert Sarvis, the third candidate on the ballot, was not invited.

As the article points out, Warner has not committed to any other debate. I’m aware of a couple of efforts to get the Senate candidates to appear in Hampton Roads, which has, strangely, been omitted from debate locations recently. So far, no luck this year, either.

Meanwhile, in the 2nd, there have been no debates announced yet. Suzanne Patrick, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Scott Rigell, issued a debate challenge about 10 days ago.

I am convinced that voters’ lack of exposure to candidates – outside of their biased, self-serving statements – is a leading cause of low turnout.


It is often said that democracy is not a spectator sport. In the lazy days of summer, it may appear that little is going on. But decisions are being made that will affect us in the fall and beyond. We have to do our part – and not just on Election Day.

Contact the candidates. Ask them to participate in debates.

To my friends Mark Warner and Scott Rigell: consider this my request that you debate your opponent often and in as many venues as possible, in order to allow the voters the opportunity to see you and them side-by-side. (I’ll follow this up in writing.) Our democracy depends on an engaged and informed electorate. Do your part to make it so.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.