“Do you want a match race?!!” That battle cry from the movie Seabiscuit was used to flush out the competition to take part in a 2-horse race to see which horse was better. Finally, after a series of excuses, the competition acquiesced, and we all know the outcome.
When I hear that the local candidates in Red Bank and Manalapan have held debates, I wonder when it will happen in Middletown, the largest municipality in Monmouth County.
The sheer size of our town – 42 square miles and nearly 67,000 people – means that even the most dedicated candidate can’t visit every household and talk to every resident. That makes a one-on-one debate between the local candidates that much more important. If we can’t get to you, you should at least be given the opportunity to come to us to hear what we have to say so that you can make an informed decision on Election Day.
Earlier this month, the Chairman of Middletown’s Republican Party turned down my debate challenge, issued via letter from my own Party Chairman. The excuse given was that a debate was already scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 23rd, 7 p.m., at the Lincroft School.
However, the Lincroft event is not a one-on-one debate but rather a question and answer session for all local and county candidates – at least 8 people this year. That works out to just 10 or 15 minutes per candidate at most. And unlike a debate, there is no opportunity for any candidate to respond to comments made by another.
Further, residents who live in the northern parts of the Township might be more likely to attend, and would be better served, if a more centralized location were available.
During public comments at the end of the Oct. 15th Township Committee meeting, I again issued the debate challenge to Mr. Massell. He replied, “I’m happy to debate you, Ms. Baum…,” followed by a string of excuses why he wouldn’t.
Why couldn’t a debate have been held a couple of months ago, Massell wanted to know – that is, when no one was paying attention yet. That’s an odd comment since it’s common knowledge that debates are typically held close to an election.
Mr. Massell insisted this was all so secretive, referring to the Library meeting room being reserved ahead of him getting formal notice of the debate challenge. It was necessary to go ahead and reserve the room early because it was quickly booking up. The reservation could always be cancelled.
It is ridiculous to say the debate was a secret, especially coming from one of the two participants who would need to be there and therefore would HAVE to know about it.
In attempting to respond to each of these points, I was cut off from speaking, as usual. That is something they would not be able to do at a debate. Perhaps that’s the real reason they want to avoid it.
Here’s the link to the 10/15 meeting video: http://archive.org/details/10-15-12TownshipCommitteeMeeting. Advance to time 90:50 (1:30:50) for the debate discussion. You may have some trouble hearing me because the public’s microphone wasn’t working that night. Intentional? You decide. There was nothing wrong with the microphones on the dais, of course.
A note about the Library room reservation. I filled out the reservation form myself on behalf of the Middletown Democratic Party. But again, the purpose was just to reserve the room. In order for the debate to have occurred, the Library required that it be jointly sponsored by both Parties. That was also a requirement of the League of Women Voters, which was asked to moderate. Had the challenge been accepted, joint sponsorship would have been established in advertising material.
The email that Mr. Massell refers to in the video was sent by the Library Director upon review of the room reservation regarding the need for joint sponsorship of the debate. Her email was received ahead of our letter being received. Regardless, notice was received and it should be obvious that the email and letter crossed in the mail, so to speak. It’s silly to be feigning such offense over it as reason not to participate in the debate.
Mr. Fiore states in the video that the debate was to be unmoderated. Not true at all. The moderator and the format were details to be worked out later, after the debate challenge was accepted. Since it wasn’t, how can the Republican Party know anything about how the debate would have been run?
If, like me, you feel that the public has a right to hear the issues and where the candidates stand on them from the candidates themselves – in lieu of nonsense from anonymous commenters or those on the dais – then you should demand a match race. There’s still time.
It may also interest you to know that Manalapan televised its debate on local cable access channels. There is no reason why we can’t do that in Middletown.