The big question Oregon Democrats have been asking this campaign season is: “Why won’t Chris Dudley play a little one-on-one against John Kitzhaber?”
The former Portland Trail Blazer center who’s now the Republican candidate for governor has filled the airwaves with platitude-laden commercials (a new one was released yesterday) but has ducked opportunities to debate Democratic rival John Kitzhaber. On Tuesday Kitzhaber offered a list of seven events around the state where he’d be willing to debate Dudley.
Dudley finally agreed to one debate – but it wasn’t at one of the seven venues Kitzhaber proposed. According to Oregonian political blogger Jeff Mapes, it’ll be an Oct. 7 event sponsored by The Oregonian and KGW-TV of Portland.
That’s too late in the game, complains Carla Axtman of the liberal/Democratic Blue Oregon site: “As I understand it, that's barely a week before ballots go out. Apparently Dudley thinks we don't need to know his actual positions on issues before then. Dudley's spokesperson LeRoy Coleman tells Mapes that Dudley doesn't want to debate until the fall because that's when voters are paying attention. Um … LeRoy, if voters aren't paying attention, then why are you guys shelling out giant piles of cash for TV ads? Gimme a break.”
The Democrats’ frustration is palpable, because Dudley's bob-and-weave tactics appear to be working. According to the polls he’s tied with or slightly leading the two-term former governor, and he’s way ahead in the money race, topping Kitz by almost $1 million at the start of August.
The Democratic partisans’ annoyance and dismay was reflected in a suggestion offered by Bill Ryan on Blue Oregon: “Back in the '92 Clinton campaign GHW Bush was trying to avoid debates. The Clinton campaign starting sending a guy out in a chicken suit to every Bush campaign event. It really grabbed headlines and pointed out the Bush debate cowardice. Let's bring out the chicken suits! Dudley is clearly a wuss and has nothing to fill that empty suit.”
No word yet from the Kitzhaber campaign on whether they’re considering the chicken suit option, but as the summer winds down it’s obvious they’d better come up with something … and pretty fast.