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3rd Congressional Race: No debates, no real news

September 25, 2010

Today, the Grand Rapids Press reported that both the Republican and Democratic candidates for the 3rd Congressional seat being vacated by Vern Ehlers can not come to an agreement on public debates.

The Press articles states that there have been 2 debates since the August Primary, one being public and one being for members only (Kent County Medical Society). Press reporter Jim Harger cites both the Miles and Amash campaigns as being is disagreement about the terms of possible debates.

The article also cites several other sources, all of which have sent invitations to the candidates and all four of which say that Amash has refused or did not respond to the invitation to debate.

Clearly, debates are one way for the public to get access to information about the candidates, by hearing their responses to questions and possibly being able to ask questions themselves.

However, debates or the lack thereof, should not prevent the local news media from providing coverage of these candidates and their stance on issues. Since Labor Day, the GR Press has only run two stories on the 3rd Congressional race.

The first story was based on a debate between Amash and Miles from September 18 and the second story was about endorsements for Miles. In both cases, the Press reporters did not provide readers with any details of the candidate’s position on issues.

We are only five weeks away from the November 2nd vote and the Grand Rapids Press has an obligation to inform voters about where the 5 candidates stand on the critical issues of the day. The Press should not wait for debates in order to explore where the candidates stand on issues, they have the capacity to interview them, engage them and the public about what people want from Washington in terms of policy on economics, health care, the environment, war, spending, immigration, education, political corruption, civil rights, etc.

The Press will no doubt print a voters guide the week prior to Election Day, but as we have noted in the past, those voter guides only include responses to a few questions. The Press could at least provide the guide more than once before Election Day, which is exactly what they did with the ArtPrize Voters Guide, which was included in the Press three times – September 19th, 22nd and 23rd. As the only daily newspaper in Grand Rapids, they owe it to the public to provide the kind of information that will allow voters to make an informed decision.

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