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Curren, Bell campaigns struggling to work out details of debate series

Erik Curren and Dickie Bell agreed to a series of four candidate debates a couple of weeks after Bell replaced State Del. Chris Saxman as the Republican candidate in the 20th District race this summer. Remember that? It wasn’t without some controversy between the two, but they agreed.

We’re more than a month past that basic agreement, and still we have nothing on the schedule for a Curren-Bell debate series. I first got wind of this after talking with Curren earlier this week and hearing from him that his campaign had not heard back from the Bell campaign on the debate schedule for more than a week.

I’ve since talked with the representative for the Bell campaign on the debate-schedule issue – as it turns out, Chris Saxman – and gotten the feeling from them that it’s the Curren team’s fault that things haven’t been squared away.

“For the record, the halt came from them. They were in communicado with me for over a week,” Saxman told me by e-mail on Wednesday, responding to my query on the debate issue within 15 minutes of me getting in touch with him, for what that’s worth.

“The last e-mail we got from Saxman was on Wednesday, Sept. 9, when he said he’d have to talk the situation over with Dickie about doing our debates. ‘We will have to get back to you after I discuss this with Dickie,’ ” Curren responded to that contention from Saxman in an e-mail to me this morning.

Both sides agree on a few key details. The campaigns had agreed on a schedule of four debates with dates for all four and venues for three of the four. The only venue left to be decided, according to the Curren campaign, was the Staunton one.

The holdup appears to have come when the campaigns were contacted by the News Leader regarding a possible joint Leader-WHSV debate. Curren said he put off answering the paper on the request for two weeks as the two sides worked out the final details on their already-agreed-to debate series. After a couple of weeks a Leader staffer told Curren that he needed to give an answer by the end of that particular business day, “so I accepted their invitation on my own behalf – with no obligation to Dickie,” Curren said.

Saxman said that the Leader-WHSV debate “was not part of the original agreement since as we had agreed to schedule the dates, places, times, and moderators ourselves.” But the Bell campaign has now agreed to be part of the televised debate, Saxman said.

Editorial comment: I’ll steer clear of trying to assign blame, because the important thing isn’t that it’s somebody’s fault, but rather that the two sides get the final details of the schedule all worked out. And it seems that maybe things are moving in that direction.

I’m just glad the AFP could help get some progress toward that end.


– Story by Chris Graham

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