Earlier this week, Ben Hall made a bombshell announcement. He asked Mayor Annise Parker to six one-on-one debates against him. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Parker responded with a counteroffer of just one debate, that would include all candidates.
Texpatriate writer Noah M. Horwitz discussed each of these offers, criticizing both Ben Hall and Annise Parker in the process. In the following days, members of this board discussed their positions on the debate quandary. This board has now come up with a definitive solution to the problem.
First and foremost, there should be three debates before the November election. Any fewer than three debates would silence some of the positions and voices of the candidates, a huge mistake. The debates should be divided: one in August, one in September and one in October. Further, only one debate should feature a mono-y-mono matchup between Parker and Hall (and, perhaps, Eric Dick as well). The remaining two debates should feature all candidates, including some of those on the fringes.
One debate, featuring all the candidates, should adhere to the typical moderator format commonly seen in Presidential primaries. Another debate, that featuring only Parker and Hall, should be held in Lincoln-Douglas format. The final debate, again among all candidates, would be a townhall format, featuring questions from the audience.
Of course, if there is a runoff election, the runoff participants should hold more debates, preferably two. But that would be a discussion for another day, and only if needed.
This board has long been a strong proponent of debates in elections. Even in municipal offices, an effective politician must not be simply a technocrat. Weak Mayor cities employ City Managers to serve in such a capacity. However, Houston is a Strong Mayor city, where the Mayor must be a politician, communicator and spokesperson in addition to being an administrator.
While Mayor Parker’s accomplishments leading this city are certainly impressive, this board believes that, alone, they are not sufficient for continued faith from the voters to lead this city. A debate is an invaluable component of the political process, to hear a candidate defend her ideas from battering and cross-examination.
This board hopes that competent organizations host these debates, and qualified individuals are selected to moderate them. Rice University, the Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston Chronicle come to mind. Other media outlets such as the Houston Press and Houstonia Magazine would also be welcome suggestions. Further, and perhaps it is a pipe dream, but this board believes that a Texas Progressive Alliance hosted debate, completed with moderation by Charles “big dog” Kuffner, would yield meaningful, important discussion on all relevant issues.
The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz of Boston, Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston and Andrew S. Romo of New Orleans.