As Election Day nears, television ads for Colorado’s senate candidates are blanketing the airwaves. Despite that, the campaigns of incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican challenger Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County Commissioner, have been relatively quiet. Both have been criticized for not holding more debates.
Bennet has refused to participate in several debates including one hosted by the Pueblo Chieftain, while Glenn turned down a debate hosted by The Denver Post.
“The media is free publicity, you get to put your voice out there,” said Dominic Dezzutti with Colorado Public Television. He helps organize debates and said it’s especially critical for a challenger to get media coverage.
“A candidate adopting this strategy is mind boggling to me and I don’t think it’s going to be surprising on Nov. 9 when we see Michael Bennet walk straight into a second term."
Bennet has a safe lead in polls, and campaigns often want to keep their candidate quiet to avoid unscripted moments. Dezzutti said he understands the strategy but still faults Bennet for putting politics first.
“I think there is a duty above strategy. The idea that candidates for a statewide position, to represent the state of Colorado for six years, would consider turning down an opportunity to answer questions with big, large scale media partnerships is astonishing to me,” said Dezzutti.
That said, Bennet and Glenn debated each other in front of a small crowd in Grand Junction and have done one televised debate for 9News, the state’s largest television station.
“The main thing about debates, and their main value for voters, is that it’s is a large block of unscripted time on multiple topics in which their opponent is right there, ready to offer a contrasting view,” said 9News political reporter Brandon Rittiman, who was one of the moderators. “The pressure to not to avoid a question is greater.”
Democratic voter Cathy Traugott and Republican Mark Clark were in the audience for the only televised debate
“I don’t feel like there is a lot of information out there,” said Traugott. “I’m always interested on hearing their positions they have on different issues anything substantive that could be meaningful on what they would or would not support.”
Clark said he doesn’t think debates and public forums make much difference in the race.
“I don’t think voters really want to take the time to find out what’s really going on and I think that’s sad, because if you look at Afghanistan and you see little kids hanging on to Marine’s pants legs so they can walk to class, and these people are voting and may die because of a suicide bomber. I think we take it for granted, our freedoms.”