Parker wants one debate

I logged onto Twitter this afternoon to find the following tweet from the Ben Hall campaign:

Parker rejects Ben’s historic proposal for six debates. She wants only one. The people of Houston deserve better!

And then, this article by Mike Morris at the Houston Chronicle:

Houston mayoral challenger Ben Hall has asked incumbent Annise Parker to face off in six debates this fall, but Parker says one will suffice.

Hall wants three showdowns after Labor Day on Sept. 2 but before the start of early voting, and another three leading up to Election Day on Nov. 5, so the candidates can “share our contrasting ideas and vision for the future of this great city.”

“Too much is at stake for us not to share our plans for Houston with her citizens,” Hall wrote in a letter to Parker.

Parker has agreed to just one debate, said campaign spokeswoman Sue Davis, to include all mayoral candidates and all media. The event would be scheduled after the Aug. 26 candidate filing deadline, Davis said.

“All year long, Mayor Parker speaks daily about city issues to civic clubs, neighborhood groups and other organizations, holds tele-town halls and online chats and is available to the media,” Davis said.

This sparked my interest, so I contacted the Parker campaign myself to discuss this quandary. After a few emails, Sue Davis, Parker’s communication director, sent me the following statement:

Mayor Parker participated in many debates in the 2009 campaign.  However, that was different in that it was an open seat.  Since she’s been in office, Mayor Parker has spent the last three and a half years speaking to just about everyone and every organization who has asked her to speak.  She has spoken to Houstonians one-on-one in person, by telephone and through social media about what the city is doing for them in every area of their lives.  She continues to do so today.  I believe Houstonians have a very good idea of who Mayor Parker is, the good work she has done for this city and the plans she has for our future.

She later made a point of noting there was only one debate in 2011, as well.

I have had almost no problems with the Mayor’s campaign up until now, but these comments struck a line with me. Meeting with people and delineating your ideas does not excuse you from declining to debate your opponents. While I certainly agree that six debates is far too many, the idea of a single debate is laughable and ridiculous.

While one debate may have been sufficient for 2011, Parker has legitimate opposition in this year’s election. She does not have the luxury of sitting out the contest. If the Mayor is truly so nonchalant about speaking, voicing and defending her opinions and positions, the debates should be a breeze for her. While such action on her part will most likely not affect her standings in the polls in any meaningful way, it bodes poorly for her campaign’s image, and reeks of a move out of Rick Perry’s playbook.

As for the notion that perhaps the Mayor does not have time to attend multiple debates (I would like to see THREE), such an idea would be utterly ludicrous. The President of the United States took enough time out of his busy schedule last year to prepare and attend THREE debates, the Mayor is more than able to do the same.

I fear that Parker’s campaign is underplaying her hand, which in turn has lead them to this regrettable move. I have never seen Ben Hall in a debate, so I can not speak as to how well he would perform, but I believe everyone agrees it is not very far-fetched that he could outdo Parker in the oratory (and, of course, obfuscation). Such a premise, however, ignores an invaluable fact: Annise Parker will be able to run on her record. Obama couldn’t do that last year because the economy still sucks and there haven’t been any major positive impacts felt yet pertaining to Obamacare (because the law’s major components aren’t in effect yet). It is absolutely imperative that, in any an all debates which may occur, Parker stands strong on her record. She has the record to run on.

If she does that, it shouldn’t matter how many debates there are. She made a huge mistake in fully rebuffing Hall’s offer to multiple debates.

Six Debates


Evidently, the Ben Hall campaign sent out a press release (please see image) this morning challenging Mayor Parker to six –yes, I said SIX– debates between Labor Day and Election Day. The exact text of the announcement goes as follows:

The Honorable Annise Parker
Mayor of Houston
901Bagby Street
Houston, TX 77002

Dear Mayor Parker,

I am writing to propose that you and I share our contrasting ideas and vision for the
future of this great city through a series of debates.

Three debates should be held after Labor Day but prior to the start of early voting
and three additional debates after the start of early voting and before our November
election. Too much is at stake for us not to share our plans for Houston with her
citizens, and I hope you agree promptly to debating six times this fall.

I have instructed my staff to contact your campaign staff to begin discussions on the

Please accept this invitation.

Ben Hall

I have a few comments on this. First, it makes absolutely no sense to have three debates during Early Voting. That is literally one of the worst ideas I have heard from the Hall campaign this year, and that is saying something. Over half of regular voters cast their ballots before Election Day, so including half of the debates during that time is a bad idea.

Second, and perhaps this is just my own personal preference, but I am disappointed in the no-debates-until-after-Labor-Day suggestion by Hall’s team. I leave for Boston on August 27th, and won’t be back until after the Runoff Election. However, I do tend to recall an August debate in 2009. That splits up the time a little more efficiently.  Cramming six debates into eight weeks reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Finally, the whole thing smells. Not the Texas Senate smell, but you get the point. I recall something similar back in 2008, when John McCain challenged Barack Obama to 10 town hall debates. The debates, of course, never happened, but there was one town-hall style debate between McCain & Obama. As I recall, Obama wiped the floor with McCain in that debate, as the old opponent had nothing memorable to say, with one key exception.

But the main point is that McCain was desperate, and so he blurted out this unrealistic goal of myriad debates, knowing Obama would have no choice but to rebuff his offer. For the record, McCain made the offer in June, not the last day of July. Ben Hall could be employing a similar tactic here.

I am looking forward to the Mayoral debates, though–although I would much prefer three debates: 1 in August, 1 in September and 1 in October. Parker has never been an especially adept speaker or talented debater. Ben Hall, on the other hand, is a somewhat good debater. I supported Gene Locke in 2009, based in large part, to his debate performance. In that election, however, all three candidates were an equal footing when it came to other issues. In 2013, that is simply not the case between Hall and Parker.

One other major point is who will be included within this debate. The 2009 debates included Brown, Locke, Morales and Parker. In that election, only three other candidates existed, and all of them were far fringe. It is arguable that Eric Dick, Keryl Douglas and Don Cook should be included in these debates.

Texas Leftist has more.

“I am not a Liberal”

My roommate has an alarm that consistently goes off in the early morning, irrespective of whether he gets up or not. The alarm is a song that beginning with the audible word of “Craziness” before descending into a sub-par Chinese song that is unintelligible to me.

Well, that seemed to be what last night’s debate was like. I keenly remember Sadler calling Cruz “crazy” a few times, and then the event drifted into gibberish and pedantic drek. The two did not seem to get to very much policy, which was somewhat disappointing, but traded quite a few ad hominems and other oddly placed insults, jabs, and gibes.

In re the Seinfeld Reference:
In what I cannot overstate enough tarnished my respect for Paul Sadler, he took the bait and took offense to Ted Cruz calling him a “liberal”. This has always reminded me of the Seinfeld scene where Kramer accuses Jerry of being discriminatory against dentists. The fact is that Ted Cruz is simply calling his opponent by his political affiliation. It makes Sadler look quite weak when we runs away from honest labels like a scared, little mutt. If he had any real chutzpah, he would explain what it means to be a Liberal (e.g., have a heart like Roosevelt, Kennedy, Clinton) and why a Liberal would be good for our state. Instead, he legitimized Cruz’s preposterous insult by simply refuting it on face value.

Kramer: …and you’re an anti-Dentite
Cruz: “I commend my opponent’s courage in running an unapologetically liberal campaign”

Jerry: I am not an anti-Denite!
Sadler: “Do you consider it Liberal to say we have to pay down the national debt?”

Yes, Paul, yes I do find it Liberal to be concerned with our deficits. The last true Liberal we had as President did exactly that, but I digress. With this stupid turn, the Democrats have taken the bait and lost their 9th Senate election in a row in Texas.