Accused Of Ducking Debates, Corzine Relents

STATE – Just days after Gov. Jon Corzine attempted to delay a televised debate due to a mysterious scheduling conflict, the Democrat agreed Monday to participate in the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission debates scheduled for October, whenever they occur.

The governor’s campaign originally told debate sponsor NJN that he would not participate in a scheduled Oct. 1 debate because of a scheduling conflict, though no one from Corzine’s camp ever explained the cause of the scheduling difficulty.


Instead, Corzine indicated that he would give serious consideration to taking part in a forum at the end of the month. The public television network petitioned ELEC to move the debate to Oct. 22, the same night as a potential game five in the American League Championship Series, which could involve the New York Yankees.

“I’m a long time Yankees fan, and I’m sure every Yankee fan out there can tell you that we’re the odds-on favorite not only to go to the ALCS, but to the World Series,” said independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett. “And that’s what Corzine is banking on – because he doesn’t want people watching the debate. He wants to minimize the audience, in the same way that negative mudslinging campaigns suppress the vote.”

Republican contender Chris Christie’s campaign was also critical of Corzine’s request to delay the debate schedule.

“If the Corzine campaign is serious about engaging in a frank and open discussion about the important issues facing this state, they must respect the current schedule and appear for the debate on the scheduled date,” Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien wrote in a letter to ELEC. “Seeking to delay the debate three full weeks appears to be a strategic consideration, not a scheduling conflict.”

Delaying the event would compress the debate schedule into less than a week and keep voters from being able to listen to the candidates discuss issues face-to-face until relatively late in the campaign.

A Corzine campaign spokesman, Sean Darcy, said Monday that Corzine believes “the public is better served having the two gubernatorial debates later in October” because “more people will be tuned in.” But “we are prepared to participate in both ELEC-sanctioned debates regardless of whether or not the NJN debate is rescheduled.”

ELEC was not able to reach a decision about rescheduling the debate Monday. Two commissioners voted in favor of moving the debate and two were opposed. The commission was scheduled to meet again Wednesday to try to resolve the issue, but NJN withdrew the request to delay the debate following Corzine’s statement.

If ELEC finalizes the tentative schedule, the gubernatorial debates for the Nov. 3 election would take place Oct. 1 and Oct. 16. The lieutenant governor candidates’ debate would take place Oct. 8.

Corzine still trails Christie, according to two opinion polls released Tuesday. According to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, Christie leads Corzine 47%-42%, with one percent picking Daggett even though he wasn’t included among the choices. A new Quinnipiac poll had Christie leading Corzine 47%-37%, with Daggett at 9%. An Aug. 11 Quinnipiac poll had Christie leading 46%-40%, with Daggett at 7%.

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