According to a press statement released by the Ballard campaign, he earlier this week agreed in principle to a debate moderated by WISH-TV's Jim Shella, but Ballard wants two more debates which include both moderators and a town hall format, respectively. Shella prematurely jumped the gun and dissed Ballard for the second time on his blog this week. Shella disengenuously wrote this morning:
We at WISH-TV enjoy staging candidate debates and, with that, you normally get difficult negotiations.
This year we encountered something drastically different from any previous year. It's a challenger who didn't leap at the opportunity.
Unlike most challengers, Greg Ballard did not request a debate. We offered one. Mayor Bart Peterson agreed and even issued a press release to that effect.
We await word that Ballard will take part.
Later today, Shella updated his blog. "Campaign representatives for Greg Ballard responded to the last posting in this blog by calling and saying they are "definitely in" for televised debate with Bart Peterson," Shella wrote. Personally, I think it is a mistake for Ballard to agree to a debate moderated by Shella alone. He has clearly demonstrated his bias towards Mayor Peterson on repeated occasions in the past. At times, he seems to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. It is highly doubtful Ballard will get a fair shake from Shella in this forum. Oddly, in this strange election year where Peterson's negatives are so high, it is the incumbent who has everything to gain and the challenger who has everything to lose in one of these events, which are really not debates at all. It is too easy for a biased moderator to stage the event so as to make the challenger look unprepared for the task of being mayor by tripping him up on irrelevant nuances. I've always preferred the Lincoln-Douglas style debate, to which candidates almost never agree these days.
It appears to me this whole turn of events today was staged by Peterson's campaign in full cooperation with Shella to trap Ballard into agreeing to this one pro-Peterson-staged event. Shella posts the negative blog item, sends Ballard's campaign into a panic and they quickly agree to a debate on Peterson's terms. Mayor Peterson won't agree to the two additional debates, and Ballard will be labeled the bad guy if he tries to pull out of Shella-run event because Peterson won't agree to more debates. That's how these things play out. Providing an informative discussion for the benefit of the voters is the least of the political players concern.