A debate over the number of gubernatorial debates we'll see this fall broke out in Montpelier Tuesday.
"I know they had about a dozen debates last cycle and I think that would be a good number," said Randy Brock, the Republican candidate for Vermont governor.
"We are going to have a lot of debates, I want to have at least five or six debates," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, the Democratic candidate and incumbent Vermont governor.
Brock is openly accusing the governor of being afraid to go toe to toe after Shumlin recently turned down the annual AARP debate on Vermont Public Television.
"It appears as if the governor wants to appear in front of audiences that are favorable to him in a way he can control the scene. I'm willing to appear in front of every Vermonter and take questions as they come," Brock said.
Brock asserts the governor doesn't want to appear in an AARP-sponsored debate after the organization criticized him during the Green Mountain Power merger, for not pushing Central Vermont Public Service to repay ratepayers $21 million. Shumlin says he simply doesn't have enough time to debate more than five or six times as an incumbent governor.
"I do have to balance my job as governor with my job as candidate and I hope I'll do both well," Shumlin said.
Former Governor Jim Douglas says in 2002 there were 40 debates. The administration then decided to cap the number of gubernatorial debates per season at 12. But back in 2008, incumbent Governor Douglas debated Progressive Anthony Pollina, and Democrat Gaye Symington more than 12 times. With no incumbent back in 2010, Peter Shumlin and Brian Dubie debated 13 times.
"I think we deserve to go to the four corners of Vermont live in front of the people so they can ask questions without them being filtered by media outlets," Brock said.
Governor Shumlin says he doesn't want to participate in debates like the AARP's on VPT because they target a limited audience.
"I want those debates to be as inclusive and broadly broadcast as we can possibly have so that all Vermonters can participate in this important decision," Shumlin said.
Currently only five debates are on the books with statewide media outlets, including WCAX. Until then, we may hear more about the lack of debates than the issues themselves. The WCAX Channel 3 News debate between the candidates will take place Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.
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