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By now, anyone holding their breath for Muriel Bowser to debate her mayoral opponents before September should have passed out. Despite appearing at primary debates before the April ballot was set, Bowser is sticking to her refusal to debate before the November ballot is set by Sept. 8.
Now, though, the Bowser campaign has imposed an even later deadline on the race. Ward 4 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Doug Sloan found that out the hard way last week, when he tried in vain to reschedule an ANC-sponsored debate that Bowser had refused to attend in July. Despite picking a new date after the ballot will be set, Sloan says he hasn’t even heard back from Bowser campaign manager Bo Shuff.
It turns out that there’s a good reason for that. Last month, the Bowser campaign begged off a real estate-centric debate scheduled for Sept. 10, saying that they had promised the organizers of the American University forum on Sept. 18 that their forum would be the first. The people who would know best about that alleged commitment—-the organizers themselves—-told the Post that they never asked Bowser’s campaign to make theirs the first debate.
Just because AU didn’t ask Bowser’s campaign to promise anything, though, doesn’t mean that they aren’t sticking to that promise. Bowser campaign spokesman Joaquin McPeek concedes to LL that there was no official agreement with the university not to debate before the Sept. 18 forum. Instead, according to McPeek, it’s a promise the campaign has made…to the campaign.
“We’re just holding the commitment to ourselves,” McPeek says.
Cue David Catania campaign manager Ben Young, who’s received a lot of practice this summer at accusing Bowser of dodging his candidate.
“Their shifting explanations are self-evident of a strategy to avoid substantive discussion for as long possible,” Young says.
What’s the rush, though? Bowser said as much in a recent appearance on WAMU, pointing out that voters are more interested now in their summer plans than in the general election.
LL’s concerned, though. Given that April’s primary generated just 27 percent turnout, if public interest were the only barometer of whether to do something, the District might never have another election again.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery