U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, and Bobby Schilling, the Republican challenger in the Illinois 17th District, don’t agree on much. They have proved that with a debate about … debates.
Schilling challenged Hare earlier this month to a series of four debates in the Quad Cities, Springfield, Quincy and Macomb. Hare countered last Friday with a plan to have two debates that would be covered on public television through the district.
“I am offering you the following: 2 hour-long in-studio debates in October on public television — WQPT-Quad Cities and WSEC-Springfield — that will be moderated by an agreed upon neutral party,” Hare wrote.
Hare noted that WQPT reaches the Quad Cities media market and WSEC-WQEC-WMEC reaches Springfield, Quincy, Macomb and Decatur.
“Combined, these debates will encompass all of the areas you requested and then some and can be available to affiliates across the district,” Hare said.
Schilling responded Monday that limiting the debates to in-studio public television events would shortchange the public. While Schilling agreed that a neutral moderator is needed, he believes a live audience should be allowed to attend with each camp getting the same number of tickets.
“The 17th District consists of over 650,000 people and five media markets. I don’t think that two debates carried by just two TV stations is fair to the voters,” Schilling said.
Both men have said the debates should be based on issues, not hyperbole. Hare said that “requires avoiding some of the hyper-partisan atmospheres that have unfortunately dominated our public discourse” during the past year. Schilling said Hare’s friendship and support from Gerold Grubel, president of Network Knowledge which licenses WSEC-WQEC-WMEC, would not provide a level playing field.
Debates, whatever their form, would beat this back and forth with press releases.