No matter how you vote, we should all be able to agree debates are an essential part of democracy. Every candidate for every office should stand before the people and make their case for why they deserve your vote.
In 2018 we saw a number of Republican candidates across Tennessee refuse to debate their Democrat counterparts – Mark Green, Brandon Ogles, Scott Desjarlais, to name a few.
As it turns out, Republicans aren’t the only ones who play this game.
Nashville has just seen two its mayoral candidates – Mayor David Bailey, and John Cooper – debate each other. But a debate in the Memphis was just canceled, apparently because former mayor Willie Herenton declined to participate, which gave current mayor Jim Strickland all the excuse he needed to pull out.
Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and Lemichael Wilson were ready to go, but the mayors, it seems, were not. From WMC Action News 5:
Herenton would only say he “respectfully” declined to partipicate. In response, Strickland’s campaign opted out.
“without the top challenger in the race participating, in informed and balanced debate could not happen,” said a spokesperson for Strickland’s campaign.
News 5 goes on to relay Sawyer and Wilson’s comments.
“By refusing debate — no matter the circumstances — Mayor Strickland and Herenton are denying taxpayers the right to hear where we all stand on the issues and make an informed choice on who will lead our city over the next (four) years.”
“It’s unfortunate that the citizens won’t have an opportunity to engage with mayoral candidates in order to share their concerns or to hear the candidates’ visions to address their concerns.”
Columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee of the Memphis Commercial Appeal agrees, saying:
“The two top contenders for city’s top job are choosing convenience over courage… If Strickland and Herenton can’t handle a debate, can they handle Memphis’ real issues?”
Sawyer has been running an inspired campaign with a lot of grassroots momentum, just recently drawing a mention in a tweet from Hillary Clinton. Could her footsteps be what is causing the mayors not to want to stand on a stage next to one another?
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 26, 2019
There’s no excuse for this type of behavior. These men are robbing the people of Memphis of the opportunity to hear from those who seek to govern them. It’s cowardice, and Strickland and Herenton both need to feel the pressure.
Post and tag them on social media asking them “WHY WON’T YOU DEBATE?” with the hashtag #MemphisMayorDebates and #DebateMeMane.
Let’s fix this together.