Bailey v. Hoyer: To Debate or Not to Debate

By David Noss

CALLAWAY, Md. (Sept. 19, 2008) - Did incumbent Congressman Steny Hoyer (D) back out of a commitment to debate Republican challenger Collins Bailey at a candidate forum at St. Mary's College of Maryland? That was the claim being made in a press release issued by the Bailey campaign on Thursday and backed up by campaign spokesperson Cindy Jones in a telephone interview today.

"I'm disappointed the debate will not take place. I think it's important for people to hear all sides before the election," said Bailey in Thursday's press release. "We will make an announcement if and when this event is rescheduled."

Bailey's claim is totally unfounded according to Hoyer's campaign spokesperson Stephanie Lundberg.

Lundberg said she had seen the press release issued by the Bailey camp. "It appears that it is not true. There never has been a debate," said Lundberg in a telephone interview. "You can't really back out of a debate that was never scheduled."

In a telephone interview with Bailey on Friday, he noted that he was not directly involved in negotiations for a debate and was getting the word of an alleged Hoyer pullout "second hand." According to Bailey, Lou Sierra, of the St. Mary's County Republican Central Committee, was negotiating the debate with Prof. Michael Cain, head of the Center for Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

When asked about the statements made in the Bailey release, Cain said, "I wasn't pleased when I saw that."

According to Cain, he was contacted in late August by Sierra who inquired if the Center was willing to hold a public forum for the candidates. Cain said he told Sierra he was interested if the candidates could agree on a date and time.

"They never agreed on either," said Cain. Cain added, "It was not my job to make sure everyone could agree."

A formal invitation to debate, which is political protocol, was never sent to Hoyer, Cain told us. "At no point did I offer them a debate," Cain said.

Cain explained that "you must walk a long line" to set up a debate-referring to logistical issues such as when and where and matters of protocol.

"We weren't even close to those things," said Cain.

Cain acknowledged that he sent email to Hoyer's campaign to inquire if they were interested in participating in a debate with Bailey. According to Cain, he received a reply via email which did not specifically answer the question, but rather stated that Hoyer would be happy to come to the college to address the students.

When asked if the campaign had been contacted by Cain to discuss the possibility of a debate, Lundberg said, "There may have been a discussion. I don't know."

Lundberg further confirmed that Hoyer's campaign never received a formal invitation from the Center.

According to Bailey, the proposed debate at SMCM was not the only opportunity that Hoyer was given to face-off on the issues.

Bailey appeared on the popular So. Maryland-based morning drive radio show T-Bone and Heather last Friday. Bailey told us today that T-Bone and Heather said they planned to contact Mr. Hoyer to invite him on their show to discuss the issues along side of Bailey.

According to Lundberg, Hoyer's campaign was not contacted by the radio show.

While it appears that there will be no public debate between Bailey and Hoyer before the election, each may appear individually at St. Mary's College of Maryland to present their case to the students and interested citizens. Bailey is currently scheduled to appear on Monday, Sept. 22. Cain said he is currently in communication with Hoyer's campaign and it appears that Hoyer will speak sometime in October.

In assessing the Center for Democracy's role in debates and local politics, Cain concluded, "We are here to help the community discuss political issues."

Calls to the T-Bone and Heather Show and Lou Sierra were not returned by publication time.

In the interest of full disclosure, it must be noted that Mr. Hoyer is on the Board of Trustees for St. Mary's College of Maryland and that he has secured a significant amount of funding via legislative earmarks for projects at the State-owned school.

The Complete Press Release Issued by the Bailey Campaign on Sept. 18, 2008

Last week incumbent Congressman Steny Hoyer backed out on his commitment to debate challenger Collins Bailey and others at a candidate forum at St. Mary's College of Maryland. All candidates for Congress in Maryland's Fifth Congressional District were invited. Although he had originally agreed to participate in the September event, Hoyer apparently changed his mind at the last minute.

Bailey, a 54-year-old self-employed businessman from Waldorf, MD, said, "I'm disappointed the debate will not take place. I think it's important for people to hear all sides before the election." Bailey said he knew many people were interested in attending the forum. "We will make an announcement if and when this event is rescheduled."

Bailey's next opportunity to debate Hoyer will be this Sunday, September 21, 2008 at a "Free Country Hotdog Cookout" in Marbury, MD. The event is open to the public and will be held from 12:30 to 3:00 PM. Congressman Hoyer is invited to stop by, have a hotdog and discuss the issues that are facing the people of Maryland's Fifth Congressional District. Bailey will be speaking at the event and said, "I will be happy to share the microphone with Hoyer."

Bailey has spent the last 20 years of his life working to make our schools better for all children. He is currently serving his fourth consecutive four-year term as an elected member of the Charles County School Board. "I love this district and its people. Our federal government is out of touch with working America, spending is out of control, gas prices continue to rise, and our jobs and our money are going overseas. I believe America is ready for change. I believe America is ready for leadership. I believe America is tired of finger pointing, excuses and party politics."

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