As has been widely reported, the Gazette launched a blistering editorial about the Gessler purportedly deriding last week’s debate as devoid of “legitimate candidates.” The Gessler campaign has now responded.
I do not like this response. I understand that perhaps the Gessler campaign reached the decision not to push back on some of the abuses that occurred in the IEC proceedings against Scott. Fine.
My issue though is that the response buys into the logic that pointing out certain candidates are not legitimate – in the sense that they have no foreseeable path to victory – is somehow an insult. This is a mistake.
I know every candidate wants to believe they are their own unique special snowflake and each deserves a chance to be on the big stage in front of the big cameras. Guess what – life is not fair. Not only do candidates have differing chances to win – some don’t have any real chance at all. That may be an uncomfortable truth to acknowledge, but it is a truth.
So the question becomes, who gets to decide which candidates have legitimate chances for victory? The implicit idea behind the Gazette’s original editorial and some of the other news media is that the press gets to be the self-appointed gate-keepers of who is a legitimate candidate and who has no shot at victory. While I understand that Wayne Laugesen or Lynn Bartels may have very strong (and often very intelligent!) opinions on such things, I fail to see why their opinions are necessarily dispositive.
However, and more importantly, if unelected members of the press (who often have no experience running a campaign, fundraising for campaign contributions, etc.) have the right to have an opinion about who are legitimate candidates and who are not, then why wouldn’t the candidates themselves have that right? If Thomas Tancredo decided one day that he doesn’t think that Greg Brophy has any real shot of winning and thus doesn’t feel like debating him (or vice versa), why should Tancredo not be able to have that opinion and act on it? Why should Scott Gessler‘s mere filing of campaign papers strip him of the ability to have an opinion as to Jason R. Clark or Mike Kopp‘s chances of securing the GOP nomination? If he underestimates these candidates or Steve House, that is on Scott and nobody else – but that should be Gessler’s choice to make. After all – everybody else seems to have made the same conclusion with Jim Runberg of Meeker who is running for Governor but who you probably never hear about.
So my view on the Gazette editorial and the response is this: Gessler took a defensible position that without Tancredo being present there was little benefit to him debating the remaining candidates. While there are risks of giving the highly competent Kopp, Brophy, and House air time without a chance to respond to them, those were risks that Gessler is entitled to take and he owes nobody an apology for choosing to take them.