Local News

Possible Debate Up In Air For Congressional Matchup

Posted September 28, 2006 5:52 a.m. EDT

— As November gets closer, the ads and accusations have become more inflammatory in the congressional race between Vernon Robinson and Brad Miller. But the two men have yet to go head-to-head in a debate.

In the campaign for the 13th Congressional District seat, much of the attention has been on Robinson's particularly charged radio and television ads about his opponent, incumbent Miller, and illegal immigration. A Robinson television ad claims that Miller voted to give illegal immigrants driver's licenses and Social Security and other government benefits.

But when Robinson was asked Thursday if he would express his views in a debate with his opponent and where that would happen, he was noncommittal.

"I'm willing to debate (Miller) in a fair venue everywhere across the district," said Robinson.

Robinson has not committed to a televised debate on WRAL or on WTVD. Miller has agreed to those venues, but has declined several opportunities to meet in smaller venues.

"I have said right along, if there is a real debate by a real television organization with a real public affairs department that actually has rules and applies those rules, I will attend," said Miller via satellite from Washington D.C. on Thursday. "Because I think I owe that to the voters. But I'm not going to show up every time to be a prop in one of his publicity stunts."

The debate on whether to debate is an issue in just about every campaign. What some political science professors said is the interesting part is Miller's willingness to meet at all.

"It's not a normal strategy for an incumbent to grant debates for a challenger," said political science professor David McClennan.

McClennan said agreeing to the debate gives Robinson credibility.

"Miller has very little to gain and a lot to lose by debating Robinson," he said.

Both Robinson and Miller have agreed to participate in at least one debate on Winston-Salem-based television station WXII. Robinson said he objected to appearing with Miller on WRAL because the moderator, David Crabtree, is a deacon at Miller's church.

WRAL management said it does not see Crabtree's involvement as a conflict of interest. Robinson said he'll continue to talk with WRAL before making a final decision.