Editorial: Blakeslee should commit to a debate date

Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee has agreed — at least in theory — to debate his opponents in the Aug. 17 runoff election for state Senate. Pinning Blakeslee down to a time and place has proven so difficult, however, that a local forum or debate is far from certain.

Our hats are off to the League of Women Voters, which has been working hard to set up a public forum with all four candidates.

The League had tentatively scheduled the event for Monday at Cuesta College. The three other candidates — Democrat John Laird, Libertarian Mark Hinkle from Morgan Hill and Independent Jim Fitzgerald of Nipomo — all accepted. The campaign staff for Blakeslee, a Republican, indicated he would not be available on that day, however.

The League is now trying for an alternate date of July 26, though it’s open to other dates as well.

Blakeslee’s staff, however, has not been able to commit to a date, though it has indicated that the assemblyman will participate in an Aug. 6 forum sponsored by the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business. That’s primarily a Santa Barbara County group but does include some San Luis Obispo County members.

We understand that during this critical budget time, there are many demands on our state legislators, but the League of Women Voters has gone out of its way to accommodate Blakeslee — including offering to arrange for him to make an appearance via remote broadcast.

This has been an ugly campaign, marred by over-the-top accusations that have done little to shed light on the issues.

The Tribune has strongly encouraged the candidates to take part in a public forum or debate — indeed, we offered to co-sponsor such an event — as a way to get past the rhetoric and share ideas and opinions in a meaningful way.

Anything less would be a huge disservice to voters.

One of the hallmarks of Sam Blakeslee’s political career has been his responsiveness to his local constituents. We strongly urge him to continue that practice by making time for the voters in his home county of San Luis Obispo.