MONTPELIER -- Gov. Peter Shumlin is planning to launch his re-election campaign next week, and he said Tuesday that he’s looking forward to about a half-dozen debates but won’t be able to participate in every one he has being asked to attend.
There will be eight weeks between Shumlin’s Sept. 10 statewide campaign kick-off and the Nov. 6 election, not enough time to participate in all the debates, the governor said.
"I do have to balance, obviously, my need to do my job as governor with my job as candidate and I hope I’ll do both well," Shumlin said Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference before he left for the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina. "But, let me be clear, we are going to have a lot of debates. I want to have at least five or six debates. I want those debates to be inclusive and broadly broadcast as we can possibly have so that all Vermonters can participate in this important decision."
The governor’s Republican challenger, Randy Brock, said Shumlin was distancing himself from voters and avoiding debates before hosts that might be hostile to his positions.
"I think all of these organizations deserve to hear directly from the candidate and to evaluate what’s being said and to ask questions and to hear answers," Brock said.
Brock noted that the governor declined a debate sponsored by AARP Vermont, which has held regular debates for statewide political
Brock said AARP members could be unreceptive to the governor’s position not to require an electric utility to refund $21 million to ratepayers.
AARP Executive Director Greg Marchildon said he had been planning a live debate for Sept. 18 that would be held in front of hundreds of members and would be broadcast by Vermont Public Television. On Friday, Shumlin’s campaign told him the governor would not attend.
"Less access to the candidates is just not good for democracy. It’s not good for Vermonters," Marchildon said.
"One thing that is unique about our state is that we actually really do have access, not only to elected officials, but to the candidates themselves," he said. "I think Vermonters have come to expect over the years that they can see the candidates for public office up close and personal."
Shumlin called Brock "a worthy opponent, and I’m looking forward to debating him often and frequently."
He said he had told his campaign to accept debates that will get the broadest coverage across the state.
"You have to draw a line somewhere and I think what the campaign has decided is let’s encourage the networks, which obviously get the broadest coverage ... let’s encourage those debates because I believe they include more people than the ones where you go in and spend half an hour 45 minutes in a small room with a small group of people."