Candidates dodging questions

Gubernatorial candidates have done a great disservice to Minnesotans by avoiding debates.

The most essential part of a democracy is voter participation. However, responsible participation requires knowledge about the candidates running for office, and this year’s candidates for governor have made it difficult for voters to become acquainted with them. Republican Tim Pawlenty and Democrat Mike Hatch have practically disappeared during debate season and are doing a great injustice to the voters of Minnesota.

The 2002 gubernatorial election in Minnesota featured 22 debates between the candidates and allowed Minnesotans across the state to hear from the prospective governors. This year, 47 public forums have been canceled due to Pawlenty and Hatch’s refusal to attend. Peter Hutchinson, the Independence Party candidate, has accepted 29 invitations to debate, but it appears likely that the candidates will only participate in seven debates. Of those seven debates, only one will be televised to a wide audience.

This past Wednesday, Pawlenty and Hatch had an opportunity to debate in a second televised debate; they declined. The debate went on featuring Hutchinson and Green Party candidate Ken Pentel. There were two empty chairs for Pawlenty and Hatch, but due to their absence, cardboard cutouts of the two main party candidates took their place. While providing a comical scene, the cutouts didn’t provide any information for Minnesota voters.

The real tragedy is that many voters will get their information from 30-second television advertisements that offer incredibly limited and biased information. It should be in everyone’s interest to create the best possible democracy, and that includes educating the electorate. It makes one wonder what Pawlenty and Hatch have to hide as they try to get elected through the ignorance of Minnesotan voters.

While it might prove a daunting challenge, the voters of Minnesota will have to do extra research to determine which candidate they want to run the state for the next four years.

Informed voting will ensure that Minnesota gets a governor who truly represents and cares about this state. Be knowledgeable and make your vote count. After all, we certainly don’t want a cardboard cutout living in the governor’s mansion.