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Republican candidates skip public TV debate


Did we miss the memo? Where have all the Republican candidates gone? Off public television, that's where. The latest GOP candidate to drop out of a debate with their Democratic opponent on Idaho Public Television is Donna Jones, who is running for the arguably non-telegenic position of state controller. That post is now held by Republican Keith Johnson. One could argue he got there for the same reason that Jones might not be interested in a televised debate with her Democratic opponent, Jackie Groves Twilegar: in the 2002 primary debate, Jones came off as unpolished, to put it mildly. "She was incoherent," Twilegar told The Associated Press. In one response to a suggestion that she was unqualified to manage the state's books--she has no financial training, per se--Jones said, "You didn't see Jack Simplot keeping his own books, did you?"

But Jones is only the latest in a string of Idaho's majority party members who said they'd rather give public television a pass: First to say "nix" was Gov. Jim Risch, who is running against Democrat Larry LaRocco for lieutenant governor. Then came U.S. Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who said he'd rather do the debate against Democrat Jerry Brady on KTVB Channel 7, not public television.

The only race that seems to yet feature candidates willing (and eager) to debate is the First Congressional District race. The mainstream candidates, Democrat Larry Grant and Republican Bill Sali, have already met up in Couer D'Alene for a debate last week, where observers witnessed few big punches landing between the two.

But the United Party candidate running, former BW publisher Andy Hedden-Nicely, said he's been having trouble getting in to a debate sponsored by the Lewis-Clark chapter of the Idaho Press Club. As of Tuesday, Hedden-Nicely planned to park his RV outside the event and offer a series of one-minute speeches instead. "We invite all Lewiston-area voters who believe in fairness to come out and support us," Hedden-Nicely said in a prepared statement.