Sean Bielat, Republican nominee for Congress in the MA-4 district, sent the following letter to 31-year-old Joe Kennedy III, who is Sean’s opponent in the general election:
Let me start by congratulating you on your recent primary win. You and I have met on a few occasions, and you seem like a good guy, so I want to be clear that this is not intended as a personal attack.
You have said on numerous occasions that you’re not running on your name. There are a number of signs though which indicate that you are in fact running on your name. Most tellingly, you have held almost no events open to the public, done almost no televised interviews, and appeared on no radio shows. I was hoping that you might use debates as a way to introduce yourself to the public for the first time.
I was very disappointed to see your press release today. Apparently, you have deemed that three debates are sufficient. You have insisted that none of the three be a live television or radio debate. You have also insisted that those debates include a third party candidate who qualified for the ballot but has since suspended his campaign. I don’t know how else to read these facts other than to conclude that you are attempting to expose yourself to as little risk as possible and to reduce the amount of time you will have to speak in the debates. All this is extremely disappointing.
I have accepted 16 debate offers to date. While I don’t expect anyone to want that many debates, we wanted to provide maximum flexibility. In 2010, Rep. Barney Frank and I debated or did joint ed-boards 8-10 times. Congressman Frank wasn’t afraid to defend his record, air his views or let voters decide who they agreed with more.
Every election should be about giving voters a choice between two candidates and their respective messages. If you aren’t in fact running on your name, I would hope that you too would want to give voters a chance to compare us and our views, and then make their decisions.
I understand your strategy: build a huge war chest, mobilize Democratic activists, spend a lot on TV and direct mail, and keep your head down and hope that your name is enough to carry you through. That strategy may have a very good chance to succeed, but don’t you think voters deserve a little bit more? If you are a strong candidate and are more than your family name, why not agree to a few TV debates so that you can prove it?
I hope we’ll see more of you publicly soon (and I don’t mean in paid ads).
Now, I don’t have anything against 31-year-old red-headed attorneys, for semi-obvious reasons, but do firmly believe that it’s rather ridiculous for an attorney to refuse a live debate. Sean is a businessman, with experience at iRobot, McKinsey, and start-ups; his opponent is a lawyer with some time in the prosecutor’s office.
A debate, all other things being equal, favours lawyers: our entire training is to think on our feet, defend our positions, poke holes in the other side’s arguments. We’re trained to be exquisitely well-prepared for any question we may be asked.
When your only qualification for Congress is being an attorney, your only experience as an attorney is in a courtroom, and you refuse live debates, you’ve just admitted that you’re pathetic. It’s like an actuary refusing to do math.