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Shelli Yoder's bad faith debate challenge

By Scott Tibbs, August 13, 2012

When is an invitation to debate genuine and when is an invitation political theater? It all depends on whether the invitation is made in good faith, and Democratic candidate Shelli Yoder's invitation was not in good faith.

Last week, Yoder challenged incumbent Congressman Todd Young to a series of 13 debates, one in each county in the Ninth District. This is not an unusual request by any means. Challengers are usually the first to request debates, and challengers of both parties have often requested debates in every county of their districts. The problem is that Yoder's challenge was not delivered in good faith, as the Young campaign explained in a press release:

Our opponent delivered a letter to our office less than 15 minutes before sending out a press release, and that letter asked us to contact them even while omitting contact information.

Yoder's request was made for the purpose of getting media attention, not for the purpose of working with the Young campaign to set up a series of debates around the Ninth District. The fact that the Yoder campaign did not even include contact information in a letter delivered mere minutes before it was blasted to the news media should tell voters all they need to know about the sincerity of Yoder's challenge.

The problem now is that there is most likely a trust issue. I know if I were running for Congress and my opponent delivered a challenge in bad faith, I would be reluctant to work with her and would want to document every single exchange with that opponent's campaign. Yoder may well have damaged the Young campaign's willingness to work with her by delivering an insincere "challenge" that was only for the news media and not for the Young campaign itself.

Despite Yoder's bad faith challenge, Young should prove himself to be the bigger person by working with Yoder to develop a schedule where debates can take place. However, Yoder needs to prove herself trustworthy. Yoder needs to demonstrate that she is actually interested in discussing the issues with Young and providing contrast to the voters, not merely in getting media attention (especially in a sympathetic hometown newspaper) for its own sake.