Republican Gov. Jan Brewer wants Arizonans to elect her in November, but she refuses to debate Democratic challenger Terry Goddard. She put in her one required appearance - forced because she took public campaign money - and that's all she's going to give the voters of Arizona.
Brewer wants the job without having to prove she is the best person for it.
She refuses to stand up in public, articulate her ideas to make Arizona better and defend them from attacks by her political opponents in real time. Voters should be suspicious of any candidate so unwilling to subject her platform to more scrutiny.
We're not surprised that Brewer has agreed to only one debate. She is ahead in the polls and another performance like the one she gave Wednesday could only hurt her campaign. She stumbled, bumbled, spaced out and repeated disjointed talking points instead of offering cogent plans for the future.
Brewer retreated to canned catchphrases instead of answering direct questions, and she continually distorted Goddard's positions, even when he had stated them himself seconds before.
Goddard, who wants five more debates, didn't embarrass himself the way Brewer did, but he didn't give us strong reasons to vote for him.
The current state attorney general offered his best fountain-of-statistics-without-specifics routine. He referred repeatedly to his emergency jobs plan but failed to tell voters anything about it, other than it's available on his campaign website. How nice - but we want to hear him describe his plan and sell it.
Brewer and Goddard are competing for the top job of a state mired in high unemployment, skyrocketing home foreclosures and a disgraceful public-education system.
Arizona voters need to know the candidates' specific plans to create jobs, increase state revenues, improve schools and reform the tax system.
Brewer spoke about the need for "righteous" tax reform - whatever that means - and sought to portray herself as Arizona's savior after Gov. Janet Napolitano left office to become U.S. secretary of Homeland Security. Brewer found a state in crisis, she said, and, "There but for the grace of God I arrived."
Goddard avoided such grandiose self-adulation but talked over and over about what is wrong with Arizona without telling viewers specifically how he would make things better. Neither candidate got into the weeds on vital issues like the economy, education, taxes or water policy.
Debates are one of the best ways Arizonans can compare the candidates side by side. There's an immediate opportunity for each candidate to respond to what the other says.
It's easy to throw off sound bites written by political handlers and repeated day after day on the campaign trail. It's another thing altogether for each candidate to appear alone, in an hour-long debate on a single topic. In that setting, candidates have to stand on the strength of their ideas.
In the end, it's those ideas that matter.
Brewer, Goddard, Libertarian Barry Hess and Green Party candidate Larry Gist should meet at least two more times. Each debate should focus on specific topics, like the economy or education, so Arizonans can judge each candidate's plans and ideas in depth.
Don't worry, Governor, you aren't the first politician to stumble over the English language. In the end, the details of how you'll run the state in the next four years are more important than your ability to conjugate verbs.
You are applying to keep your job as the CEO of Arizona - a job you hold not because you were elected but because you were next in line when Napolitano quit. You owe voters more than a single quickie interview.
You don't have to give voters five more, but there's no recent precedent for one. Each of the last three gubernatorial races, dating to 1998, featured at least two debates. There were three debates in each of the last three presidential campaigns.
So come out for Round 2, Ms. Brewer. Show voters your ideas. Give us details about how you'll overhaul the tax system. As for you, Mr. Goddard, stop with the statistics about the terrible performance of Arizona schools. We know all about it. Tell us, specifically, how you'll improve education.
No business would hire a leader without a thorough interview, where job candidates' critical-thinking skills, managerial acumen and vision would be examined in detail.
Arizona voters should expect no less.
Arizona Daily Star
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Contact Jan Brewer's campaign office at 520-344-4526.