From an IUSB Press Release:
The American Democracy Project and Political Science Club of Indiana University South Bend and the League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area are moving ahead with the third bi-annual Second District Congressional Candidate Debate to be televised live on WNIT-TV on Sunday, October 28thfrom 6-7:30 p.m. Participants will include Democratic candidate Brendan Mullen and Libertarian candidate Joe Ruiz. Republican candidate Jackie Walorski has declined to participate.
In 2008, these same groups hosted a (WNIT) televised debate between Democratic candidate, Joe Donnelly, and Republican candidate Luke Puckett.
In 2010, they hosted candidates Joe Donnelly (D), Jackie Walorski (R), and Mark Vogel (L).
The Second District Congressional Candidate Debate is part of a larger Fall 2012 debate series hosted by the American Democracy Project and League of Women Voters, which features St. Joseph County candidates for the positions of surveyor, treasurer, recorder, probate judge, and commissioner.
The American Democracy Project and League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area have become well-known locally for hosting candidate debates in races of importance to local voters. For example, last fall (2011), the same organizations hosted debates for Mishawaka Mayor, South Bend Common Council, and South Bend Mayor. Recent candidates for the offices of sheriff, prosecutor, state legislator, and county council have also participated in the ADP/LWV debates. “We are at the stage now where both Republican and Democratic candidates have begun calling us to ask if we can host a debate for their political race,” said Elizabeth Bennion, who is the lead organizer for the events.
According to Dr. Bennion, a political science professor who serves as Campus Director of the American Democracy Project at Indiana University South Bend, the Second District debate has been in the planning stages since July.According to Bennion, the coalition always planned to move ahead with the debate once at least two candidates accepted. “Brendan Mullen and Joe Ruiz accepted our invitations quickly and enthusiastically. We have been waiting since July to receive a confirmation from the Walorski campaign.”
Bennion noted that she contacted Ms. Walorski, communications director Elizabeth Guyton, and campaign manager Brendon DelToro on Tuesday, September 11th to let them know that the sponsors planned to move ahead with the debate with or without Walorski. After receiving an email reply from Mr. DelToro stating that the campaign would be reviewing invitations on Saturday, September 15th, Bennion—still hoping for an affirmative response—promised that she would not confirm a final date until Monday (9/24/12). The Walorski campaign’s response came on Monday, September 24th, the same day the campaign issued a press release indicating that they had agreed to participate in a WSBT radio debate and a Wabash County Chamber of Commerce debate. (Details for these events are not yet finalized).
As a political science professor who studies and teaches about election campaigns, Bennion notes that there are many factors a campaign must consider when determining which invitations to accept. “I understand the many factors that a campaign manager considers when deciding which debate invitations and public appearances to accept. Ultimately, it is the right of the Walorski campaign to accept or reject any invitation. However, as Campus Director of the American Democracy Project, I am eager to give voters an opportunity to hear the candidates on their ballot and compare them side-by-side. The American Democracy Project and the League of Women Voters support engaged and informed citizenship. There is no better way for voters to quickly understand the differences between candidates than to hear the candidates answer issue-based questions in their own words in a face-to-face debate. Our record hosting a wide range of candidate forums reflects this belief and demonstrates our commitment to informed and engaged citizenship.” Bennion notes that the decision to partner with WNIT also reflect this philosophy by opening up the debates to people without cable TV or home Internet access.
Bennion stressed that she would be thrilled if Ms. Walorski decides that her schedule will, in fact, allow her to participate in the televised debate. “There is a podium waiting for her, if she is able to join us. We plan to host every two years with whichever candidates accept our invitation. This year’s debate would certainly be enriched by the participation of all three candidates.” “Jackie Walorski is the current front-runner in this race. Voters are eager to hear what she has to say. She is a strong campaigner and we welcome her participation in the debate.”