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Candidates For Governor Debate Over Debates

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A debate about debates is threatening to pull the plug on a face-to-face forum featuring Gov. Mike Easley and his Republican opponent, Patrick Ballantine. Both campaigns have issues with the other's demands, but voters may hear from the candidates yet.

At the Republican National Convention four weeks ago, Patrick Ballantine accepted an invitation to debate Gov. Mike Easley. Easley accepted the same debate offer last Thursday, but on Friday, everything changed.

"The only campaign that's dropping out of the debates is the Ballantine campaign," said Jay Reiff, Easley's campaign manager.

After tentatively agreeing to an education forum at SAS, Ballantine backed out, citing Easley's refusal for a debate in western North Carolina and his insistence on focusing solely on education.

"We've been sort of holding out so that we can get a debate on all the issues. We think that's fair to voters. The voters deserve that," said Bob Rosser, Ballantine's campaign manager. "We think it's sad that the governor of our state won't even come out and talk to the people."

"It's clear to us that this is just game-playing. This is just a candidate that doesn't want to stand up and be honest about where they stand on education," Reiff said.

With Ballantine bowing out of the education forum, the Easley campaign fired back by putting the brakes on a WRAL forum on all the issues. Now, WRAL has offered the candidates both debates -- one hour to talk about education and another hour for the rest of the issues.

Before WRAL offered the second debate Monday, both appeared willing to work something out.

"We want to debate from the beginning," Rosser said.

"We're going to evaluate the numerous invitations that we get to debate each one of the values," Reiff said.

Ballantine's campaign manager has agreed to WRAL's offer. WRAL should hear back from the governor's campaign on Tuesday.


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