Democratic gubernatorial candidate Marvin Nelson has been raising a stink in recent weeks about his difficulties in scheduling a debate with Republican candidate Doug Burgum.
Burgum was eminently accessible during his primary campaign against fellow Republican Wayne Stenehjem but has been somewhat less accessible since the general election season has begun. At least to those who might be inclined to ask some tough questions.
On Facebook Nelson has gone so far as to release a satirical video in which he debates Burgum’s cowboy hat.
It’s a bit painful to watch – the skit goes on about two minutes longer than it needs to – but consider the point made.
In Burgum’s defense, this is a pretty typical election year stunt from Democrats who routinely brand any delay in scheduling debates as debate dodging. I’m certain that Burgum will, eventually, schedule some debates.
But it would be nice to see Burgum return to the same level of accessibilty he touted during his primary campaign. He ran against the status quo. He railed against the “good old boys club.” If he meant those things, then accessibilty should be the hallmark of his public service, not this sort of thin-skinned retreat from criticism.
For my part, I can tell you that I’ve put in four interview requests with Burgum since the June primary vote. Each time I’m told that Burgum has prior commitments. Among them, it is apparent from his social media postings, interviews with people who were less critical of him during the primary.
I suppose this lack of accessibility is a direct response to my criticism – I’m not sure how else to take it – and that’s pretty unusual in North Dakota politics. For years I’ve been an outspoken critic of people like Senator John Hoeven and Governor Jack Dalrymple, yet when I put in requests for interviews they have always agreed.
The only person I’ve had consistently ignore my requests for interviews and comment over the years is Senator Heidi Heitkamp.
Maybe Burgum thinks this race is over. In some ways it is. All due respect to Mr. Nelson, but he’s the longest of long shots. But that’s no excuse for a would-be statewide leader to dodge his critics be they media types like me or his general election opponent.
Engage, Mr. Burgum. It’s what you promised.