Monday, April 23, 2012

Gladiator Blues

In declining an invitation from the Santa Fe County Democratic Party for a debate, legislative candidate Carl Trujillo said he would be happy to debate his opponent Mayor David Coss “in a forum that is not run by or beholden to the Democratic Party Machine.”

However, on Monday, Trujillo said he has decided against debating Coss at all in the Democratic primary contest to replace retiring House Speaker Ben Lujan in House District 46.

In a blog post, Trujillo wrote that the “increasing focus on gladiator style debates that pit one candidate against another in an adversarial format may do more harm than good to our democracy. ... In this election, we aren’t going to participate in debates that pit one person against the other in a gladiator-style arena.”

In an interview Monday, Trujillo stood by that position, saying he believes that modern politics have become “bitter, toxic and polarizing.” Instead of debates, he said, he plans to focus on “listening parties” and town halls with constituents. Listening to voter concerns, he said, is more productive than adversarial debates with an opponent.

“I want to put the people’s voice back in the Roundhouse,” Trujillo said.

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, on his Twitter account Monday said Trujillo’s refusal to debate was a “bad decision.”

Egolf, who said he’s neutral in the District 46 primary, said debates have been part of the American political process since the Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debates of 1856. “Did Carl Trujillo figure out something Abraham Lincoln didn’t know,” Egolf said.

“Debates give voters a lot of information,” he said. “They show how you think on your feet. A legislator is a debater. Granted you have to work together and compromise in committees, but when a bill goes to the floor, you have to debate it.”

Egolf is unopposed in both the primary and general election this year. But in 2010 he debated at least once with his Republican opponent Brigette Russell, he said.

Both Trujillo and Coss will be appear at events tonight. Trujillo is hosting a “listening party” 6 p.m. at the O Eating House in Pojoaque.

Coss will be appearing at the same time at the Santa Fe County Democratic Party forum at the Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road.

There is no Republican running in the heavily Democratic District 46, so the the winner of the primary in all likelihood will be the net representative.