Debate: It’s What We Do Here

(letter to the editor submitted to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)

As one of the candidates for the State House Special election on September 20, 2011, I would like to respond to Bob DeMaura’s letter to the editor printed in the August 11, 2011 edition concerning whether it is appropriate for “ABLE” to sponsor a public forum regarding this special election for State Representative for District 3 (Greenville, New Ipswich, Peterborough and Sharon).

I was contacted by “ABLE” nearly a month ago and asked whether I would be interested in participating in a “non-partisan” forum/debate regarding the upcoming special election.  I responded in the affirmative as I considered their request a normal requirement for running for public office.   I have participated in a number of forums or so called “candidates night” in the past that have been sponsored by the League of Women Voters (NH), High School Youth in Government classes, etc.  Shortly after accepting the ABLE invitation, I was contacted by the Peterborough representative of ABLE who informed me that David Simpson, the Republican candidate for the special election, had declined their invitation.

Shortly thereafter, I contacted Mr. Simpson and suggested a debate/forum moderated by someone such as the Peterborough Town Moderator,

L. Phillips Runyon, III.  Such a forum would be a service to the voters of District 3 as I’m sure our positions on a number of issues may be quite different.   However, I received an e-mail from Mr. Simpson that stated:  “I don’t think that the kind of public debate that you are proposing is a useful forum and so far as I have been able to determine is not customary in a race for state representative.”

In my 10 years in the State House and 14 years as selectman, I must disagree with Mr. Simpson when he says debates are not customary during the campaign process.  Mr. Simpson is new to NH and to NH politics.  This is what we do here.

I believe an open public forum provides the candidates running for “public office” and the attending audience and press an unscripted opportunity to ask questions. Good government is open government and a forum/debate on the issues is an important part of that process.

We should be debating the issues and not debating whether or not to have a debate.

Peter R. Leishman

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