Tavares urges 4-way debates; Democrat says all candidates should be included

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 3

State Rep. Charleta Tavares has broken ranks with the leader of her Democratic ticket on the issue of debates.

Ms. Tavares (D., Columbus), who is her party’s nominee for secretary of state, said gubernatorial candidate Lee Fisher should be willing to debate the three other people running for governor – including the two minor-party candidates who stand little chance of winning.

“It’s got to be inclusive,” Ms. Tavares said. “Whatever is good for Republicans and Democrats should be good for Libertarians, Greens, and so on.”

Mr. Fisher, trailing in polls to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Taft, has said he would participate in a four-way debate only if Mr. Taft agrees to a series of one-on-one debates.

Mr. Taft, Ohio’s secretary of state, has said he won’t do that, and would only participate in debates that included Reform Party candidate John Mitchel and Natural Law candidate Zanna Feitler.

Both Ms. Feitler and Mr. Mitchel receive less than 4 per cent support in statewide polls. Each raised less than $1,000 in the last campaign-finance reporting period, compared with $1.1 million each for Mr. Taft and Mr. Fisher.

But Ms. Tavares said that didn’t matter.

“I would encourage everyone to have all candidates at the debates,” she said. “I disagree with our candidate on this point.”

The secretary of state is Ohio’s top elections official and Ms. Tavares said that, if elected, she would make it easier for third-party candidates to get onto ballots. Ohio has a reputation as a difficult state for third parties, with high ballot requirements.

“Certainly, Charleta is entitled to disagree with us,” said Alan Melamed, Mr. Fisher’s campaign manager. “We don’t have an objection to four-way debates. But there should also be one-on-ones.”

The Taft campaign welcomed Ms. Tavares’ comments as “a pleasant surprise.”

“We’re pleased that Ms. Tavares has the fortitude to stand up to Mr. Fisher and his willingness to exclude people from the election process,” said campaign spokesman Brett Buerck.