Dear Rep. Smith:
It’s been over a month since I first invited you to join me in a series of public debates or forums so that we can provide the voters in New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District an opportunity to weigh their electoral options.
Over the past six weeks my campaign has placed phone calls to your office and issued public statements inviting you to debate. As a show of good will, I also sent a personal letter to your attention, along with a copy of Allen Guelzo’s fine new book on the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. Disappointingly, we have received no response from you or your staff.
Among your colleagues, you stand out for your consistent refusal to debate your opponents. Barack Obama and John McCain are debating each other on Friday. Sarah Palin and Joe Biden are scheduled to debate next month. Frank Lautenberg and Dick Zimmer will soon debate (and, along those lines, Rob Andrews and Frank Lautenberg debated last spring). John Adler and Chris Myers have debated twice, and Linda Stender and Leonard Lance have already debated each other once. But you have not publicly debated an opponent in almost twenty years. Your refusal to engage in the electoral process suggests a fundamental disrespect for the citizens of Central Jersey, who deserve much more from their candidates.
As you know, our economy is in a deep crisis. This week in Congress, you are weighing the merits of the $700 billion bailout proposed by the Bush Administration. Once Congress recesses over the next few days, we should honor the voters of the Fourth Congressional District with a vibrant debate on the future of our country. Now more than ever, it is crucial that the voters know where their candidates stand on the issues facing our nation. The stakes are simply too high for continued debate-dodging.
I have reserved space and time at the public libraries in Brick and Hamilton. I originally planned to use these venues to stage town-hall meetings to discuss our troubled economy. But given the seriousness of the issues facing our country, I would like to invite you to hold joint appearances at both locations. Of course, we would agree to turn the program over to an impartial, third-party group. My campaign has already been contacted by Veterans4Education, a nonpartisan group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans currently studying at New Jersey colleges and universities. They sponsored a fine debate in the 3rd District and have invited us to participate in a similar forum. With your agreement, I would invite Veterans4Education to assume responsibility for one of our joint appearances. If any group deserves to press its candidates on the issues, it is Veterans4Education. I hope you will join me in showing them the respect they have earned in service of our country.
We have reserved the following dates and venues:
Brick Branch Library: October 9th, 6PM
Hamilton Public Library October 23rd, 7PM
If these dates do not fit into your schedule, I am happy to accommodate your calendar.
It should be noted neither of these libraries is sponsoring a debate. Rater, they have offered to provide free meeting space.