Marvin Nelson, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate for governor, put this message up today on his Facebook wall accusing Republican candidate Doug Burgum of dodging debates.
He claims that Burgum has now skipped or canceled two debates:
I’ve sent a request for comment into the Burgum campaign about Nelson’s claims.
This sort of kabuki dance, where one candidate (usually the one not expected to win) accuses the other candidate of avoiding debates, is typical for election years in North Dakota. And the accusations are usually smart politics. After all, who can be against the candidates debating?
But Nelson’s complaint seems a bit more substantive than the usual campaign season pie throwing.
Burgum’s primary campaign – shallow as some observers such as myself thought it was – was all about accessibility. He was extremely accessible to the media, and as far as I know accepted every debate opportunity available. In fact, the Burgum campaign made some hay over primary opponent Wayne Stenehjem skipping pre-NDGOP convention debates in Rugby and Fargo.
The Burgum campaign was even extremely accessible to me, someone who was sharply critical of them throughout the primary season, which is more than I can say for a lot of politicians I’ve criticized over the years.
There is no question that Burgum’s campaign has seen a shift in tone since winning the primary. In some ways that’s a good thing. I’m happy to see Burgum drop some of the rhetoric about the “good old boys club” and work a more conciliatory angle with his fellow Republicans. Particularly lawmakers.
On the flip side, however, I don’t think the Burgum campaign should get to treat the general election like a mere formality. Even if it kind of is one.
Marvin Nelson doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the general election, for a lot of excellent reasons. But he’s a smart guy. He often makes interesting points about public policy.
And so far Burgum has not been very specific about his policy priorities.
I think the public would be served by multiple, robust debates between these candidates.
That will probably happen, but Burgum should make sure the process begins sooner rather than later.