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Wise unfair in nixing format of the debates

What is it that U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, Democrat nominee for governor, is afraid of when he says he will not take part in gubernatorial debates if they include independent candidate Denise Giardina or Libertarian Bob Myers? Both will be on the general election ballot in November.

We applaud Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood for his open-mindedness on the matter. His re-election campaign aide, Rod Blackstone, has called Wise a "bully" for trying to shape the format of the debates. He was quoted by the Associated Press Friday as saying, "We think democracy is served if West Virginia voters have as much information about their choice as possible."

Which debate invitations will be accepted are decided by Underwood, based on his schedule and campaign plan -- not based on the format. But that seems to be a sore spot for Wise. To date, Underwood and Wise have agreed to appear three times together. Giardina and Myers are not included.

To our way of thinking, Wise's ultimatum is nothing short of a bullying tactic, and we concur with Blackstone that beating up on people "doesn't really serve democracy much." That's strange, coming from a Democrat candidate like Wise.

The Second District congressman's exclusionary demands are hardly fair or representative. Being a long-time representative of the people, we feel that of all people in the race, Wise should know this best. But he has said he will insist that debates use the criteria adopted by the Non-Partisan Presidential Commission on Debates, whereby only participants who have obtained the support of 15 percent of respondents to a poll can be invited to the debates.

Excluded candidates Giardina and Myers must be hopping mad. We could not blame them. In the same situation, we certainly would be.

Robert F. Stealey

Telegram Editorial Board chairman

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