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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Full slate of debates in Idaho races to ‘fill in the picture’ for voters

A full slate of political debates stretches before Idaho voters, who are mulling decisions on every statewide office in November; you can read my full story here at The “Idaho Debates,” a tradition in the state of more than three decades’ standing, will feature seven debates broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television, co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. In addition, other groups also are sponsoring candidate forums and debates – including a local debate in Coeur d’Alene in the governor’s race that’s free and open to the public.

“I’m just delighted to see there’s that much activity, and there are a lot of very interesting races, so I hope the public tunes in or follows these debates and forums closely,” said longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby, a professor emeritus at Boise State University. “There’s a lot at stake.”

Weatherby said debates are particularly important for voters who may be exposed to selective messages from candidates through advertising or other means. “It helps fill in the picture as to who these people really are, rather than hiding behind their campaign ads or the websites or brochures that are carefully prepared,” he said. In addition to putting candidates on the spot about their positions on issues and showing them head-to-head with their opponents, he said, debates show “how effectively they can respond to criticism.”

Nels Mitchell, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, decried GOP incumbent Jim Risch’s decision to participate in only one debate, turning down invitations from the Idaho Debates, the City Club of Boise and more. Click below for Mitchell’s full statement.

Statement from candidate Nels Mitchell:

"Risch's decision to ignore the many debate invitations -- like the ones from Idaho Public Television and the City Club of Boise -- and only agree to one debate is disappointing, but not surprising.  After all, he has a very long record, and it is not a record to be proud of.  His short stint as governor was a disaster.  The Risch tax shift has decimated our public schools.  And Risch clearly doesn't want to defend his last six years as a do-nothing senator.  It seems he has taken a page from Butch Otter's playbook -- hoping that people won't look beyond the party label.  Otter has at least agreed to participate in more than one debate -- including the Idaho Public Television debate -- but Risch doesn't even rise to Otter's low standard.  Risch can duck and dodge all he wants but the voters of Idaho are smarter than he thinks.  They know he has retired on the public dime."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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