The League of Women Voters says that Governor Jon Corzine has refused to participate in its prime time televised debate, and that Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie won’t attend without Corzine.
The debate – to be broadcast from the College of New Jersey on the New York City and Philadelphia ABC affiliates – is scheduled to air live at 7pm on Tuesday, October 13. It will preempt "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune."
“We are dedicated to the voters of this state and wish the candidates valued the voters with the same dedication. New Jersey needs a third debate – held by experienced nonpartisan sponsors, in primetime, and on the most watched television stations.” said League of Women Voters Executive Director Anne Ruach Nicolas. “It is the voters who lose when the candidates do not take every opportunity to be seen and heard in fair and nonpartisan debates. Participation in our primetime debate would reach the most voters and allow the voters to make an informed decision based on the issues rather than from negative television ads and campaign controlled messaging.”
The League applied to be one of the two debates sanctioned by the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) but was rejected in favor of partnerships that included My9 and NJN. Christie and independent Christopher Daggett — who both get matching funds — are requred to participate in the ELEC-sanctioned debates.
Corzine, although he does not take public financing, agreed to participate in the ELEC-sanctioned debates after some wrangling over the first event’s October 1 date.
Daggett is the only candidate who has agreed to participate in the League's debate.
Monmouth University pollster and political science professor Patrick Murray said that the League's debatewould will be seen by more people than the other two, since it will during air prime time on two major networks in two of the country's largest media markets.
"They'd have to bump Wheel and Jeopardy!, which means they'd get a pretty large audience, " said Murray, whose institution will host the season's one lieutenant governor debate.
Ruach Nicolas said that the last time the same partnership had the gubernatorial debate, 600,000 people watched.
The League will press on with the debate if it can only get Christie and Daggett to attend, but will not give Daggett the floor to himself, a spokeswoman said.
“The candidates need to take this opportunity to debate for the sake of the voters,” said Ruach Nicolas.
The Christie camp ripped Corzine for turning the event down, but said they would not debate Daggett without Corzine there.
"We are willing to debate Jon Corzine anytime and anywhere," said Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella. "It's a disservice to New Jerseyans that Governor Corzine flat out refuses to debate the issues, but not surprising considering he's spent this entire campaign running from his failed record and hiding behind negative attack ads."
Despite pressure from the League of Women Voters, the Corzine camp did not budge.
“Governor Corzine has accepted the requests to participate in the ELEC debates," said Corzine campaign press secretary Lis Smith. "Unfortunately, his schedule does not allow for him to participate in all debates offered, but he will also be continuing to travel the state to discuss the issues with New Jersey residents.”