Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Kaine pitches doubleheader debate
The lieutenant governor will debate Jerry Kilgore, then Russ Potts, Sept. 13.
The latest from our Blue Ridge Caucus politics blog
From The Roanoke Times
RICHMOND - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine has agreed to debate Republican rival Jerry Kilgore and independent candidate Russ Potts next month on the same day and at the same location.
That means Kaine will participate in back-to-back debates - first with Kilgore, then with Potts.
Kaine, the lieutenant governor, announced plans for his Sept. 13 debate doubleheader on Tuesday. Kaine said he wants to accommodate Potts, who was not invited to participate in a debate with Kaine and Kilgore arranged by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. So Kaine agreed to meet the state senator for a separate debate at the same Tysons Corner hotel where the chamber will hold its event.
"Virginians deserve to hear all of the gubernatorial candidates discuss the issues side by side," Kaine said in a statement released by his campaign. "In the interest of ensuring that Virginians get that chance, I've offered to Senator Potts the opportunity to have that debate."
Potts, elected to the Senate as a Republican, has been clamoring for an opportunity to debate Kaine and Kilgore since announcing his independent bid for governor in February. Potts said he was "delighted" to have a forum to exchange views with Kaine. But the veteran lawmaker still insists he should be allowed to join both candidates in a debate.
"I earned my way onto that platform," said Potts, who has served for 14 years in the General Assembly and chairs the Senate Education and Health Committee.
Kilgore, the former attorney general, has said that Potts should be excluded from the gubernatorial debates, dismissing the senator as a candidate with no chance to win. Potts has relentlessly criticized Kilgore for taking such a stand, and claims to be gaining political traction with his protests. He called Kaine's debate offer "a shrewd political move."
Kilgore and Kaine held their first debate last month at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, an event sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association. The Fairfax chamber agreed to limit its debate to the two major-party nominees, following procedures it has used in every governor's race since 1989. Tim Russert, the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," will be the moderator for the debate.
William Lecos, the chamber's chief executive, said that arrangements for the Kaine-Kilgore debate required careful negotiations with the campaigns and several meetings of the chamber's leadership. Those arrangements were not altered, despite recent calls for Potts' inclusion by 15 former chamber presidents.
"We can guarantee that the next governor of Virginia will be on our stage," Lecos said, referring to the Kaine-Kilgore debate.
The Fairfax chamber will have nothing to do with a debate between Kaine and Potts, Lecos said.
Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh dismissed Kaine's offer to Potts as a "stunt." Kaine's campaign never pushed for Potts' inclusion during negotiations for the Fairfax debate, Murtaugh said.
"It just lays wide open the kind of desperation they must be feeling," Murtaugh said.
Kaine and Potts also agreed to debate Sept. 30 at George Mason University.
Kaine and Kilgore also will have a statewide televised debate on Oct. 9, sponsored by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Potts will be allowed to participate if he reaches the 15 percent threshold in at least two statewide polls. A survey conducted last month by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. had Potts at 9 percent.