Sioux City Gubernatorial-Debate Sponsors Failed Iowans Print
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Written by Todd McGreevy   
Friday, 17 September 2010 14:32

Even before the June primary election, it was obvious a Terry Branstad/Chet Culver contest would mainly consist of sarcastic, distorted, personal, accurate, and not-so-accurate attacks.

Despite serving five terms as governor combined and a term as lieutenant governor and two terms as secretary of state respectively, neither 2010 candidate has published detailed plans on how he would lead the efforts to fix the problems that plague Iowa: spending, taxation, education, and governance.

So it is no surprise the two took their “fried eggs” and “cooked books” televised warfare live to the stage of the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City on Tuesday, September 14.

This is what we learned from Governor Branstad: Chet Culver is a failure.

This is what we learned from Governor Culver: Terry Branstad is a liar.

Or as one television reporter stated: “The two candidates spent much of the hour-long debate attacking each other; at times they barely answered the questions and took swings at each other instead.”

Considering each candidate’s history, and left to their own devices, could one expect more? No.

But in a televised debate, with reporters, journalists, and editors surrounding them, much much more should have been demanded of them. The Sioux City debate co-sponsors, Lee Enterprises and Citadel Communications, have much explaining to do.

Our state faces some very real challenges:

• The looming billion-dollar deficit and what that means to stable governance at the state, regional, county, municipal, and school-district levels.

• The urban education crisis. In Iowa’s 10 largest cities, 100 percent of the high schools and 95 percent of the middle schools are officially failing. In Lee Enterprises major markets – Sioux City, Waterloo and Davenport – 100 percent of the high schools and middle schools are officially failing.

• Iowa’s declining population. In 1993, Iowa had six congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2013, Iowa will only have four congressmen. What more powerfully illustrates our state’s decline and stagnation?

• Iowa’s poor business climate. Iowa ranks 46th out of 50 states in Business Climate for Taxation according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s 2010 study.

Combined, the two candidates on stage had more than 37 years’ experience in Iowa lawmaking and governance. With all that experience, voters were only presented with a single hour of petulance and platitudes.

Instead of demanding specific answers from the two incumbent governors, the debate sponsors enabled a pushing contest in the sandbox to take place. The biggest losers in the first debate were Iowans. The debate sponsors were more interested in putting on a show than performing their sacred fourth-estate responsibility – being a watchdog for the people.

Instead of providing a forum that informed Iowans, advanced solutions, or exposed deficiencies, the Sioux City debate sponsors became collaborators in an assault upon the very reason, logic, and purpose of a gubernatorial debate – to hold candidates accountable, and to educate the electorate. In being so woefully inadequate, they became conspirators in the candidates’ dis-information campaigns.

It falls to the two remaining events in October to ensure Iowans hear a real debate. Iowa voters deserve better.

Todd McGreevy is publisher of the River Cities’ Reader and is co-chair of the Iowans for a Fair Debate campaign.

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