If a tree falls in the forest…

You’ve heard the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”  Well, let’s adjust that phrase to apply to the first of three televised debates featuring the 2010 Republican candidates for governor.  Former Governor Terry Branstad’s campaign sort of ran the show when it came to deciding which debate sponsors were selected to host events this primary season.  Branstad announced which “debates” he’d attend, the other two candidates said, “O.K.,” and that was that.

The first “debate” (these are really joint campaign appearances, but the word “debate” gets thrown around) will occur next week, on Wednesday, April 7, 2010  at KTIV studios in Sioux City.  KTIV is not going to let anyone see or hear what the candidates say until KTIV airs the debate three days later.

It begs the question: If a debate is held in Sioux City, but no one is there to hear it, did it really happen?  Imagine, if you will, what would have happened if any of the presidential debates you watched in 2008 were taped, put “in the can” as the saying goes, and aired three days later.  What sort of a public outcry might there have been?

Branstad campaign spokesman Tim Albrecht told Bret Hayworth of The Sioux City Journal that it’s up to KTIV to decide the “formats and setup” of the debate.  Democrats have issued press releases, which you can read below.  They use words  like “hide” and “blackout.”


DES MOINES, IA – The Republican candidates for governor are scheduled to debate on April 7, but the debate, hosted by KTIV, will be embargoed until it airs on Saturday April 10.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan released the following statement calling for open, public debates in the Republican Primary.

“Iowa’s voters should not just be disappointed, but outraged, to hear that the Republican candidates for governor agreed to a closed debate. It is wrong to allow only a select few people to know what these candidates say before the voters know.

“More importantly, it is absurd that any candidate for the Republican nomination would agree to this blackout. It is a disservice to Iowa’s voters and our democratic system.

“Let there be no doubt, Governor Chet Culver and our Democratic candidates will only participate in debates that are open to the press and to the public. It’s essential for the press and the public to have immediate access to what candidates say about their views and positions.

“Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts called for these debates and I’m asking them both today to stand with me in making sure that the public and the press have the access they need. Terry Branstad should also be willing to openly discuss and explain the litany of changed positions and flip flops that plague his run for governor.

”I challenge all of them to deny this blackout and ensure that each of these debates is open and transparent for Iowa’s voters.”


DES MOINES – The Republican candidates for governor are scheduled to debate in KTIV’s Sioux City studios on Wednesday, April 7. The debate, however, will be embargoed until it airs throughout Iowa three days later on Saturday, April 10.

Culver/Judge Committee Campaign Manager Abby Curran issued the following statement demanding open, public debates in this year’s gubernatorial campaign and pledging that Governor Chet Culver and Lt. Governor Patty Judge will never agree to a closed debate.

“It’s clear the Republican candidates for governor are trying to hide from Iowa voters, and would rather debate behind closed doors instead of talk openly and publicly about the real issues that matter in this election. It is even more disturbing that Terry Branstad, who was reluctant to debate in the first place, would now agree to a media blackout. Iowans are left to wonder whether Terry Branstad is afraid of explaining his long list of flip flops on taxes, health care, and an array of real issues that matter to Iowa voters. ”

“Governor Culver and Lt. Governor Judge believe in an open and free democratic process, and are excited for spirited general election debates that are accessible to all members of the media. They will never agree to a closed debate, and call upon each candidate for governor to make the same pledge to Iowa voters.”

“Governor Culver continues moving Iowa forward and helping Iowa’s hard-working families. The Governor is proud of his record that includes historic investments in our economy, expanding access to preschool education, extending children’s healthcare, providing our veterans with the services they deserve, and balancing the budget every year without raising taxes.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.