By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Last call on the debate

A bit of post-debate clean-up before moving on:

— Media Nation commenters obviously don’t like the idea of excluding anyone from future gubernatorial debates. Fair enough. But I still think that at least one or two debates ought to focus on candidates who actually have some remote chance of winning. If it were up to me, I’d have a few debates featuring just Deval Patrick and Kerry Healey, and a few with Christy Mihos and Grace Ross as well. (A Mihos-Ross match-up? Sure, why not? Anyone going to televise it? Uh, I don’t think so.)

But one point that comes up over and over really needs to be addressed, and that’s the notion that anyone who qualifies for the ballot deserves to be invited. Ballot qualifications are determined by the government; debates are sponsored by non-governmental bodies. It used to be the League of Women Voters. These days, more often than not, it’s a media organization.

For debate organizers, the fact that a candidate is on the ballot is merely one consideration to take into account. It’s amazing to me that people who are otherwise quite independent think the media ought to take dictation from the government regarding debate invitations.

— This has been much-blogged-on already, but in case you missed it elsewhere, you’ve got to see Emily Rooney’s post on the “amateurish” performance of WFXT-TV (Channel 25), which sponsored the debate along with the Boston Herald.

— Ditto for sharp-eared Phoenix writer Adam Reilly, who was listening when Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), revealed that “ordinary voter” Shonda Schilling not only isn’t ordinary — she also isn’t a voter.

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Time for some one-on-one action


Missing link


  1. Charles Foster Kane

    I think, for a first debate at least, all candidates who achieve the requirements to be on the ballot should be invited to the debate. But what’s the threshold for invitation after that? I’m not sure. There has to be an allowance for a candidate to get traction and for some candidates without vast personal wealth, the public airwaves may be one of the few ways to get the message out. Does this mean Grace Ross is going to jump to 10% in the polls? Probably not. In the end, I think that sponsoring news organizations need to realize that the airwaves are public and that televising a debate is a public service so views reflecting the desires of the public should be presented.In the end, candidates deserve their say, not just the likely winners. Using the first poll as a guide, one could make the argument that Deval Patrick had such a wide lead on Kerry Healey that even she shouldn’t have been at the debate, if we’re looking at “likely winners”.

  2. Charles Foster Kane

    One other thing–Shonda Schilling and Jasper White? Find a returning vet from Iraq and someone who has transitioned from welfare to work and let them ask questions. I’m sure they know a lot more about the pressures ordinary people face every day. Have we sunk to such a lot that even political discourse needs to have “celebrity” plants in the audience? I can just see the promo: “Tonight, on a very special episode of gubernatorial debate, Shonda Schiling guest stars and asks the questions that are on the minds of Massachusetts voters.”

  3. man who's a sox fan

    I think the “questions on the minds of Massachusetts” Shonda is actually qualified to answer…are limited to, at best, why the hell the Red Sox aren’t in the %!#%!(^%) playoffs!:-)

  4. Anonymous

    What a shock. Fox 25 amateurish? They seem like such professional journalists to me. That Emily Rooney is one sharp cookie to pick up on their failings.

  5. Anonymous

    I didn’t see the debate but read in the Globe that Schilling’s question was about public schools. We know she’s not a voter, but did anyone check to see if they pull their kids out of school for most of the year as well (return to Arizona is easier than dealing with Boston winters I guess)? Talk about school choice!

  6. Anonymous

    Healey would only do the debate if Ross agreed.

  7. paul@01852

    I was a volunteer at one of the Lt Gov debates where Lowell Telecommunications Corp. (LTC) televised it live over their own channel as well as live-streamed it to the Internet and I believe it is still available on the LTC web page for downloading. I would make the prediction that they would be glad to do something similar for a minor Gubernatorial candidates debate. They have an excellent studio and competant volunteers to produce it. It’s possible that they could cooperate with other local cable channels to form a network so that many more could watch.

  8. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Tell it to Jim Longley, Dan. Or Lowell Weicker (although Weicker certainly came from a major party background. Just that his party didn’t like him)If independent candidates are spoilers, then its up to the major party candidates to rise above the spoils.

  9. Neil

    Emily has a blog? Cool! Well, not completely. It’s the Greater Boston blog. Like the Chet Curtis show-“blog”-not-the Chet Curtis himself blog written by the guy who writes the promos.Greater Boston blog good: comments!Greater Boston blog bad: four authors who post entries using “I” (eg Sept 26, “I’m not big on labeling new organizations…”), and you don’t know who “I” is.On the debates–is even NECN too fancy to sponsor debates among the Mihoses and Rossesses of the world? No webcasts, podcasts, bloggingheadstv Boston edition? Why does it have to cost a lot of money. I have heard of something called the “internet” that seems like it could be of use here.

  10. Lis Riba

    Did you hear Fox25 morning show on the matter? “You don’t say ‘one of us is gonna win’ when you’re down 39 points in the latest poll, too. Really? I guess I know which one, as of now anyway!”OUCH!You can see it @

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Neil — The “Greater Boston” blog posts are signed. Are you by chance using an RSS reader that strips out the bylines? That’s why I stopped using NetNewsWire Lite.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Amused — I didn’t realize Jim Longley and Lowell Weicker were running. My apologies. I may have to consider voting for one of them.Seriously, though, we’re not talking about Longley and Weicker. We’re talking about Mihos and Ross. I don’t want to exclude them until we have reasonably good proof that they can’t win. But I see no reason to include them if they’re well out of the running. That’s all.

  13. Neil

    Dan no I don’t use an RSS reader. I tried two browsers IE and Firefox with the same results. The “current” entries, that is, the ones at the base URL, and its continuation on page 2, are signed, like so. Once they get archived the same entry reached via the calendar here, for example, loses its signature. (At least to me–do you get different results?) Same with any other entry reached via the calendar. Which is how I reached them. The date format is also changed slightly so maybe the archiving gizmo is rewriting the date line/byline and losing the latter. This will matter more over time and I presume is inadvertent.However good for them for signing in the first place and it seems only a technical glitch that is hiding the signatures of earlier entries. I am a big enough Emily fan that I will read what she writes even if it’s about these elections.

  14. jacksullivan

    the two major partes have a threshhold of 15 percent at the convention for someone’s name to be placed on the primary ballot, a party decision since codified by the “government.” why should the guidelines be changed for the general election? if someone is polling 15 percent in any legitimate survey — plus or minus the margin of error — give them a seat at the table. seems simple and inclusive enough for me, but then again, it’s my idea so of course i’m on board.

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