Freilich pushes for series of debates with Leahy

Wednesday May 26, 2010

BRATTLEBORO -- A Wilmington naval officer and physician running for U.S. Senate is pushing for a series of debates around Vermont with longtime Democratic incumbent Patrick Leahy.

Daniel Freilich, a political newcomer and Navy doctor, said Sen. Leahy's campaign has declined to accept his suggestion for any of three debates between the Democratic Party candidates prior to the Aug. 24 primary. Freilich said the senator has stated an intention to participate in one debate, but his schedule with the ongoing confirmation process with the new Supreme Court justice nominee (in addition to his usual duties in the Senate) will keep him busy on Capitol Hill.

"Refusal to participate in public debates shows an elitist sense of entitlement. This kind of out-of-touch thinking is typical in Congress and is what the American people are so rallying against," he said.

"Entrenched incumbents often dodge participating in public debates because they do not want to be accountable for their legislative record and political principles or give daylight to challengers. But personal responsibility should trump political maneuvering, ensuring doing what is right as opposed to what can be gotten away with."

But the Leahy campaign says the six-term senator bears a significant amount of responsibility during the nomination process of the next potential Supreme Court judge Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama's choice to replacement the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

"As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Leahy has significant responsibilities in the confirmation process of our next Supreme Court justice," said Carolyn Dwyer, campaign manager for the senator. "Those responsibilities, along with his daily responsibilities representing Vermont in the United States Senate, are his priority. Sen. Leahy has always put his work for Vermont and for our nation ahead of politics, this year will be no different."

According to Dwyer, the senator has a firm commitment with Vermont Public Radio's Bob Kinzel to host one live debate for Vermonters to hear over the airwaves.

"Our campaign has indicated we intend to participate in a live, statewide debate once Sen. Leahy has finished his work in the Senate," she added.

While Freilich acknowledges Leahy's commitment to the nomination process, he said the senator should also have an equally important responsibility to democracy in the Green Mountain State. Freilich also challenged the incumbent on Leahy's appearance on the campaign trail.

"If he has no time for debates, he should have no time for any other campaign activities when debates are probably more important than anything else because it's the one opportunity for democracy and public discourse to occur," he said.

Leahy's campaign said the senator was in Vermont for a Democratic fundraiser, but that event was prior to the Supreme Court nomination hearings.


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