Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is up for re-election in November and her main opposition comes from Republican candidate Elizabeth Emken. While Emken would like to debate the three-term senator, Feinstein has rejected the idea.
The Los Angeles Times thinks it is a good idea for the candidates to face off publicly. Last summer, after Emken won the Republican nomination, the Times published an editorial in favor of a debate:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein had an excuse for not debating her opponents in the first round of this year's election — there were 23 of them. But now that the voters have winnowed the field to two, the four-term Democratic incumbent owes it to California's voters to appear publicly with Republican challenger Elizabeth Emken.
Again, Ms. Feinstein said no.
What is this sitting senator afraid of? She has the benefit of being the incumbent in a liberal state. Her campaign has amassed a massive pile of money to fend off almost any challenger. And based on the latest poll numbers from CBRT / Pepperdine, Feinstein leads Emken by double digits:
As Emken's campaign is quick to point out, Feinstein has not faced a candidate in a public debate since the year 2000. And (as Emken's website also points out) much has happened since 2000:
Let’s step into the Way Back Machine and see how much the world has changed since then. In October 2000:
- Bill Clinton was President
- Gray Davis was governor of California
- Saddam Hussein was running Iraq
- Most Americans had never heard of Osama bin Laden
- Most Americans had never heard of Barack Obama, either
- The World Trade Center towers dominated the Manhattan skyline
- No one had ever seen a Harry Potter movie
- No one had ever followed or friended anyone on Twitter or Facebook, or used an iPod, Phone, or iPad
- Unemployment was…only 3.9%
- The federal debt was…only $5.7 trillion
- Gas was…only $1.79 a gallon
Feinstein continues to reject the debate proposal, but the topic is not going away.
During the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. last week, California TV reporter Mark Matthews sat down with the senator and asked her about the debate. Feinstein's response was curt, and then she walked out of the interview.
Emken's campaign initially requested a series of five debates between the two. Based on the responses from Feinstein's camp, it seems unlikely that even one debate will happen.
As the LA Times stated in the closing line of their July 17th editorial:
Nothing screams "entrenched incumbent" more than a refusal to debate an opponent.