Even though it will come late in the game, Rep. Heath Shuler and Carl Mumpower, his Republican challenger for the 11th Congressional District seat, are set to square off in an Oct. 30 debate.
While Mumpower has consistently badgered his opponent to meet him in public and has frequently noted Shuler’s decision to turn down debate requests from the League of Women Voters and WLOS-TV, Mumpower called the two-hour debate, to be broadcast on WWNC-AM, “better than nothing. … But it’s a token effort on his part.”
Host Matt Mittan, who will moderate the face-off on his Take a Stand! radio show, says he’s been working with Shuler’s office for some time to schedule it. Shuler, says Mittan, has consistently said he would debate Mumpower on the air, “even though Mumpower has made a campaign out of this thing that Shuler is ducking him or won’t debate him.”
According to Mittan, however, it was Mumpower who was reluctant to sign on to the debate, initially declining to take part. Mumpower came on board after all sides agreed that although the event would be held in the WWNC studios, it would also be accessible to other media. Mumpower said he wanted it to be more widely available to the public.
As a result, all interested media will be invited to attend via a media room located across the hall from the studio. Live audio and video will be available for their use, with attribution; they may also request simulcast or rebroadcast rights. Still photography will be allowed as well, but only during commercial breaks.
The debate will also be carried live on WMXF-AM 1400 in Waynesville and online at www.takeastandshow.com.
The event will be the capstone of three days of coverage of the congressional contest on Mittan’s show. It will kick off Oct. 28 at 4 p.m., when Mumpower will sit down with Mittan and take listener questions. That format will be repeated the next day in a one-on-one with Shuler. And on Oct. 30, both men will be on hand from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for a roundtable discussion with Mittan that will include listener questions. Mittan says there’ll be time for rebuttals and plenty of interaction between the candidates, while giving listeners a chance to put in their two cents’ worth.
For his part, says Mittan, “I’m going to focus on the issues that each campaign has made a priority, and just give them an opportunity to contrast each other’s priorities and where their differences lie. … Then we’ll let the listeners call in and create a kind of ‘WNC spin zone.’ It’ll be a free-for-all.”
In the meantime, Mumpower says he plans to keep pressing Shuler to debate him in a venue where voters can both see and hear them. To highlight that point, the first of Mumpower’s “missing-man debates”—planned for Thursday, Oct. 9, in Bryson City—will feature a life-size cardboard cutout of Shuler. “If Heath finds his courage button and calls WLOS, we will put ‘Shulerman’ in the closet and deal with the real guy,” says Mumpower. “The public will then have a chance to hear us and see us. Everyone knows why that is better.”
The announcement concerning the radio debate came on the heels of a canceled Shuler/Mumpower public forum that had been scheduled for Oct. 2 in Murphy. The day before, however, Shuler had to fly back to Washington to take part in negotiations and a second vote on a massive bailout for the crumbling financial industry.
Despite his frequent criticisms of Shuler and the lack of debates, Mumpower says he understands the representative’s need to be in Washington for the vote on the bailout, which was approved on its second try on a 263 to 171 vote.
Shuler voted against the $700 billion bailout package both on Sept. 29, when the issue first came before the House, and again on Oct. 3, joining six other North Carolina Republicans and Democrats. The package has been significantly tweaked since the first failed House vote; the Senate approved the retooled version after lawmakers added at least $150 billion in earmarks and tax cuts.
If Shuler and Mumpower can’t always agree on debates, they do share a distaste for the bailout.
“We are treating the wrong patient,” Mumpower said in a release on the eve of the second House vote. “This bailout is founded on a false premise: that government has the ability to control current financial realities. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, government helped pave the way to bad times, and the pork added to the Senate version of the bailout demonstrates the inability of this fox to take care of the hen house.
“Containing government’s deficit spending with a balanced-budget amendment and reforming the tax code are crucial. Getting a handhold on the Treasury’s printing press, developing policies that encourage Americans to save and invest, and regulatory reform toward transparency and honesty are authentic ways to restore trust,” Mumpower said.
Similarly, Shuler had this to say after the first vote: “This bill would have taken bad paper assets that weren’t good enough for Wall Street and forced them on the American taxpayer. The American taxpayers should not be, cannot be and will not be responsible for the bad business decisions made on Wall Street. Worse yet, there was no assurance that even this $700 billion bailout package would have solved the problem. This bailout would have sent the message to those on Wall Street that they do not need to be concerned with the consequences of their actions, because the taxpayers would clean up any mess they created.”