I’m Andrew Kain, campaign manager for the Jim Neal for Senate campaign. Thank you for the opportunity to address the points raised by Betsy Muse and describe the events as they happened as I can recall them.
Let’s take these points one at a time:
1a. Kay Hagan did NOT ignore the debate invitation from the League of Women Voters and Public Radio East.
1b. Kay Hagan did NOT fail to meet the deadline to participate in the League of Women Voters debate
When the Jim Neal campaign sent out this release: http://jimnealforsenate.com/press-releases/wheres-kay-state-senator-blows-off-debates-voters/, I personally called both Megen George of Public Radio East and Judie Burke of the LWV to confirm Kay’s attendance at the debate. I received no response within 12 hours, so I decided to go ahead and make this information public, in the hopes that Senator Hagan would agree to debate. We also thoroughly checked Senator Hagan’s website, and there was no mention of the debate or any travel to Craven County, New Bern, or Craven Community College.
When informed, after the release went out, that Senator Hagan did, in fact, agree to participate in the debate, we released this correction: http://jimnealforsenate.com/press-releases/hagen-reverses-course-again/.
As far as failing to respond by the deadline, here is a quote from Mark Binker’s blog post, dated March 14th: “Update: I'm told by the Hagan campaign that she has agreed to do the League of Women Voters forum, just confirming earlier this week.” http://blog.news-record.com/staff/decision08/us_senate/
The deadline for the agreement was Thursday, March 6th. “Earlier this week”, as reported by Mark, as a statement from the Hagan campaign, would have been the week of March 10th-14th, clearly after the March 6th deadline.
2. Kay Hagan has NOT refused to face Neal in "unscripted exchanges before the voters"
It is the belief of the Jim Neal campaign, and others in the BlueNC forum, that candidate forums are not “unscripted exchanges before the voters.”
Candidates rarely, if ever appear on stage together, and are not given an opportunity to address holes or errors in their opponents’ presentation. They do not have the opportunity to pose or to respond to questions from each other.
One can argue that this understanding of the term “exchange” is a matter of opinion and interpretation. I hope I have clarified what the Neal campaign means by “unscripted exchanges.”
a. Kay Hagan has NOT ignored the request from WTVD-TV to schedule a debate.
b. Kay Hagan has NOT failed to respond to WTVD-TV's efforts to set up a debate.
c. WTVD-TV and the Alliance of Black Elected Officials have offered to host a debate and have contacted both parties.
From Betsy’s blog: (I apologize, I do not have the formatting skills of many of the bloggers): “I spoke with Mark Falgout from WTVD who said the Hagan campaign had not ignored the station's request to schedule a debate, but that they had first contacted the campaign in November and they are just now finalizing details.”
Since early November the Jim Neal campaign has been in regular contact with Mark Falgout of WTVD about a debate, and immediately expressed our enthusiastic acceptance. In late November - early December the Neal campaign sent Mark several potential dates in March and/or April to conduct such a forum.
Since that time, the Neal campaign and WTVD have discussed the status of the debate on at least 6 occasions. Each time the message was “Senator Hagan’s campaign is thinking about it.” Jim Neal’s campaign took 2 days to respond formally with dates and times to conduct such a debate. The salient point, as Betsy has noted, is that half a year has passed and Senator Hagan’s campaign has yet to find time to appear on WTVD.
With fewer than thirty days remaining before the primary, a cynic might conclude that the lack of response sounds much more like trying to run out the clock. Regardless, this is a matter of opinion and perspective. When this release (http://jimnealforsenate.com/press-releases/statement-to-media-at-craven-community-college-new-bern-nc/), dated March 28th, was written and released, Senator Hagan had yet to agree to a debate, and to my understanding, has still yet to agree, not simply to terms, but in general. In fact, as of 2:16pm Monday April 7, Senator Hagan has not agreed to debate on WTVD.
4. WLTT and Young Democrats of North Carolina either have not offered to host debates, or have not set dates and formally sent invitations.
From Betsy’s post: “In speaking with Zack Hawkins, President of Young Democrats of North Carolina, he indicated that Young Dems did schedule a forum that Senator Hagan could not fit in her schedule and if she had attended she would have arrived very late. He also indicated that Young Dems wanted to schedule two debates, but those have not been solidified and invitations have not gone out.”
Our press release (http://jimnealforsenate.com/press-releases/statement-to-media-at-craven-community-college-new-bern-nc/) stated that they have offered to debate, which as of March 28th, when discussed with Zach Hawkins on the phone, they had. The Neal campaign has expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of debating before the Young Democrats of North Carolina.
Also from Betsy’s Post: “WLTT radio - The Big Talker F.M. - Out of Wilmington is home to conservative talk radio host, Curtis Wright. He interviewed Jim Neal on his radio talk show and his television show. At the time, the station was helping coordinate a gubernatorial debate but was having difficulty getting Richard Moore and Beverly Perdue to participate. Wright casually floated the idea to Neal that if Moore and Perdue wouldn't participate maybe Hagan and Neal could take their places.”
We received an invitation on the air from Curtis Wright, and Jim agreed without hesitation. At no point since that conversation has anyone from WLTT contacted the campaign to retract the invitation. Further, the date of the debate, March 28th, when our campaign sent this release (http://jimnealforsenate.com/press-releases/statement-to-media-at-craven-community-college-new-bern-nc/) was the same day that the WLTT interview took place.
5. Kay Hagan did NOT unilaterally change the format of the League of Women voters / Public Radio East debate
This is the debate agreement that every candidate signed. In this agreement, it is stated clearly, in the very first paragraph, that the debate was to be 90 minutes. The moderators of the debate and the Hagan campaign agreed to change that format to 60 minutes. At no point in those discussions was the Neal campaign consulted about the change.
Two days prior to the debate, in a conference call with myself and other members of the Neal campaign staff, Megen George of Public Radio East informed us that the debate was to be 60 minutes long. Asked how the change in format came about, she answered that it was one of several format changes requested by Senator Hagan’s campaign, and that Public Radio East and the League of Women Voters wanted to make sure Senator Hagan participated and therefore made the decision with the Hagan campaign to shorten the format to 60 minutes. We referred to that as unilateral decision, in that our campaign was not consulted, included or asked to participate in the decision-making process, but rather informed of the decision. Again, reasonable people may disagree on the choice of words to describe the decision making process, but the facts are clear – changes were made in the format without input from all candidates’ campaigns.
6. The other candidates for U.S. Senate had the same opportunity to offer format suggestions in developing the League of Women Voters debate.
The Terms for Participation agreement, linked above, includes no invitation or request for the participants to offer or suggest changes to the terms or format suggestions.
In fact the only reference to changes in the forum appear in the final clause: “Matters concerning the conduct and broadcast of the forum which may arise prior to the commencement of the forum, but which have not been covered by the Terms of Participation, are subject to the agreement by the candidates and Public Radio East and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina…” (emphasis added) The length of the forum was covered in the first clause of the Terms of Participation.
To be clear, the Neal campaign was never asked for, nor did we offer, any format suggestions, either before or after it became known that Senator Hagan’s campaign had requested changes.
7. Kay Hagan did NOT come forward and agree to the debate simply because the Neal campaign claimed she wasn't planning to debate.
The Neal campaign has never claimed to know the motives behind the timing of Hagan campaign’s decisions to appear or not appear in forums.
8. Kay Hagan did NOT make another public reversal of position.
At the time of this release: (http://jimnealforsenate.com/press-releases/hagen-reverses-course-again/), we were under the impression that she had publicly reversed her position on the debate.
I am the first to admit to having erred in compiling a list of endorsements, and I want to thank Ms. Muse and Blue NC for the opportunity to set the record straight on this point.
We don’t list our endorsements on the website. There is a simple reason for that. The basis of our entire campaign is that each person has ONE VOTE. Therefore, Governor Mike Easley’s opinion should not matter any more or less that mine, or Ms. Muse’s, or Mr. Protzman’s.
The Progressive Democrats of America questionnaire was the only questionnaire I recall asking for a list of endorsements, and it was in response to their request that the erroneous list was compiled.
When I realized, thanks to the help of Pam Spaulding, and others, that we had mistakenly listed BlueNC, rather than Blue America, whose endorsement we did receive, we retracted it immediately.
As far as Pam’s House Blend, let me apologize publicly to Pam and all of her readers that I misinterpreted her personal endorsement as an endorsement from Pam’s House Blend. Again, this was an error, and I apologize for the misunderstanding.
Jim has known Senator Bob Kerrey for some time in Mr. Kerrey’s role as President of the New School. The Neal campaign has been asked to send a formal letter requesting Senator Kerrey’s endorsement, which we did. I assumed that meant that Senator Kerrey had agreed to endorse.
The statement regarding the AFL-CIO endorsement was written by me. I confused theory and practice. In theory, and in the rule book if there is one, no one is excluded from obtaining an endorsement. Practically speaking, though, it is particularly difficult for a first time candidate from outside the political establishment challenging an incumbent with a lengthy voting record to secure an endorsement from organizations that make their endorsement decisions for the most part on a legislative record. Those who have such a record have an advantage. That said, the lesson is never say never.
Arm twisting is part of politics. That’s not a complaint nor an indictment. It’s a fact. No one in the Jim Neal campaign has ever accused Senator Hagan, the NCDP, the DSCC, the DNC, or the Senate Democratic Caucus of bribery or extortion.
I spoke with at least one statewide elected official who wanted to endorse Jim, but was backed off, saying to me, on the phone, that he had important business in the budget, and he has a responsibility to his constituency to get the necessary funding to do his job.
It is my responsibility, both ethically and politically, to respect that office holder’s wishes and not make his name public.
These are the realities of politics. One of the very reasons that we are running this year, is because the system, whether in Raleigh or Washington is broken. We all know it, and most of us, whether in polls, blogs, or with our Democratic voice, choose to make it known.
I would never claim that I am above mistakes. It is only fair to have them pointed out; accountability is the cornerstone of ethics – in politics and in life. I don’t feel it is fair, however, to impugn the integrity of Jim Neal.
We as Democrats have a responsibility to thoroughly and openly vet our candidates. That is the reason we have primaries.
I want to thank BlueNC for the opportunity it affords citizens to address issues and concerns such as Ms. Muse’s. Only 30 days left…you have a tremendous responsibility, not only in the Senate race, but from President to Governor to State Insurance Commissioner. I hope Jim Neal earns your support, yet whoever you choose, I deeply appreciate your thoughtful engagement in our democracy.
Jim Neal for Senate