Monday, September 22, 2008

Why Won't Mario, Lincoln and Ileana Debate?

This weekend, Vice President and General Manager of local news station WPLG, David Boylan, asked a question in a televised editorial aimed at the three Cuban-American Congressional incumbents of South Florida:

"[W]hy are the incumbent candidates so reluctant to join in the debate?"

It seems that Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have been avoiding making some committments for televised debates against their Democrat challengers in South Florida. The same day that Boylan's editorial aired on WPLG, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart had finally confirmed the FIRST debate of the three important Congressional races. His challenger is Joe Garcia, former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation.

Larry Thorson, a Democrat blogging about the three local races, had noticed the pattern of avoidance by the three Republicans, and believes they're fooling around with the public:

"Why do they do this? My guess is that they may fool some few voters who will approvingly remember the little news story saying the Republicans had agreed to debate, but not see the one reporting the debate had been called off."

According to Boylan, "[WPLG] is planning to televise three debates next month for the candidates who want to be your voice in Congress. All three challengers say they're in, but all three incumbents have more commitment issues than an aging bachelor. Representatives Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen won't confirm their availability."

It seems that this editorial was the result of rumors that Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart had backed away from scheduled debates to be aired on WPLG, and to be moderated by their political reporter Michael Putney. The dates were scheduled for October 8 and 31. Lincoln's challenger is Raul Martinez, former Mayor of Hialeah.

But, according to the Miami Herald's political blog, Naked Politics, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart has NOW agreed to a televised debate with Martinez on rival news station CBS4. This all came about this weekend, after the WPLG editorial, and after "[t]he camps traded insulting press releases Friday." Lesley Clark on Naked Politics quotes a political analyst saying that this particular race (for Congressional District 21) has the potential to be "one of the ugliest" this season.

Given the renewed debate over travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban families, Raul Martinez, Joe Garcia and Annette Taddeo (challenging Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) can certainly capitalize on this issue given that most in Miami likely favor changes in this policy. But, it may all come down to the economy.

[Raul Martinez Website]
[Joe Garcia Website]
[Annette Taddeo Website]

[Photo by Roberto Schmidt/AFP]