If you thought the City Club of Cleveland’s campaign-debate schedule seemed a little light this year, it’s not your imagination. The venerable institution usually lines up sparring matches between candidates for statewide offices and all four congressional districts that include a portion of Cuyahoga County — 12 races in all.
This fall, however, only three debates are nailed down: the U.S. Senate candidates, one of the Supreme Court races, and the candidates for Congress from District 10.
“People are not wanting to participate this year,” says spokeswoman Carrie Miller. What she doesn’t say is that those who have declined the invitation are all Republicans, who perhaps are fearful of catching the corruption bug that’s broken out among area Democrats. “We’re still trying to pin down a couple of candidates,” she says. “What’s especially unusual is that in two of these cases, it’s the challenger refusing to appear.”
It’s a new twist on the ages-old trend of incumbents declining debate opportunities for fear of lending credibility and exposure to their lesser-known opposition. Congresswoman Betty Sutton (District 13) has accepted the invitation to debate while her challenger, car dealer Tom Ganley, has not. Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, meanwhile, has agreed to debate an empty chair in lieu of opponent Mike DeWine.