Current Gov. Jim Risch laid out an unusual suggestion for the format of his statewide televised debate against election opponent Larry LaRocco, the former congressman he faces in his bid for another term as Idaho’s lieutenant governor: Risch wants the two candidates interviewed separately for 30 minutes apiece, with the other nowhere in sight.
“The Governor suggests that you spend 30 minutes asking the questions of one candidate and getting the response to each question with a time limit for the response, and then asking the same questions to the other candidate with the same time limits,” is how his campaign put it. “The Governor has agreed that he would take either the first 30 minutes or the second 30 minutes. In any event, the candidates each should leave the set when not subject to their part of the questioning,” campaign representative Jason Risch, Risch’s son, wrote in an Aug. 17 letter to the organizers of the Idaho Debates, which air live each election season on Idaho Public Television and are co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Idaho and the Idaho Press Club.
Jason Risch wrote that the suggested new format was “due to the disruptive nature of previous experiences with the opposition.”
Elinor Chehey, debates coordinator for the League, wrote back politely declining the suggested format change. “We have a 30-year history of conducting debates in which candidates engage in lively conversations, where opposing views are aired in a polite fashion…,” she wrote in an Aug. 21 letter. “Any candidate who tries to disregard the rules of the debate or of common civility risks damaging his or her reputation with the voting public.”
Chehey noted that the three organizations involved in the planning the debates had discussed Risch’s suggestions. (Full disclosure here: I’m the president of one of those organizations, the Idaho Press Club.)
“We see no reason to conduct the Lieutenant Governor debate under rules different from those we use for other debates,” Chehey concluded.