Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has just tossed some seriously cold water on the effort to educate voters on the two major-party candidates running for governor.
He’d had agreed to take part Sept. 30 in the only statewide televised debate with Wendy Davis. Then he got a new debate coordinator, Bob Black, who promptly said “no can do.” Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, has backed out of his debate with the Democratic nominee, Davis, citing some “format” concerns.
This, folks, is a serious bummer.
Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas said this:
“It’s no surprise that Greg Abbott is pulling out of a long planned debate the day after he was defeated in court for protecting billions in public education cuts that have led to overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and shuttered schools. Greg Abbott is clearly too afraid to defend his record of siding with insiders at the expense of Texans — whether it’s defending funding cuts for classrooms, siding with a corporation against a victim of rape or letting his donors take tens of millions of taxpayer dollars intended for cancer research. This is nothing short of an insult to the voters of Texas.”
I’ll leave that kind of mind-reading to the partisans, as I have no personal knowledge of why Abbott dropped out of the debate.
It is, however, a major disappointment if his refusal to debate Davis sticks. I believe there’s still plenty of time to work out through the format problems that seems to have bugged Black, who joined the Abbott campaign earlier this month.
The format calls for a roundtable discussion between Abbott and Davis. It usually doesn’t require time limits. As the Texas Tribune reported: “The looser format is designed to create a conversation and give voters a more candid look at candidates and their positions.”
I’ve known Abbott for a number of years and I’ve found him to personable and engaging. Do I agree with him politically? Umm, no. But that’s not the point. He would seem comfortable in a roundtable format.
WFAA-TV of Dallas, which had planned to broadcast the debate statewide, should start working on a way to (a) persuade Abbott to take part or (b) find a Plan B that suits both candidates.
Texans would do well to hear from these two candidates. If we’re only going to get one statewide debate, then something has to be worked out — immediately.