As the presidential candidates prepared to debate Wednesday night, Wayne Winsley stood outside New Haven City Hall and said: What about me?
That same day U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro invited Winsley to a televised debate. Winsley,a Republican, is challenging DeLauro for the Third U.S. Congressional District seat.
WInsley said he won’t settle for just one debate. He wants at least three.
In front of about 15 supporters Wednesday, Winsley accused DeLauro of refusing to tell voters where she stands on the issues. He said DeLauro’s campaign has ignored his requests for a public debate.
Jimmy Tickey, DeLauro’s campaign manager, said the 11-term congresswoman will appear at two upcoming candidate forums. Tickey said he helped to set up a televised debate that he emailed Winsley about on Wednesday.
Winsley said a Congressional race normally has an average of four debates, but he’d settle for three. Tickey said a debate and two forums are plenty.
Winsley is a former radio host turned motivational speaker. DeLauro has held her seat since 1991.
On Wednesday afternoon, Winsley stood on the base of the Amistad statue outside City Hall and announced he had a question for the press and supporters who gathered for his event: “Is it really your job to go and search for the positions of the incumbent and the challenger, or should the incumbent and the challenger stand up on stage” and take questions?
The latter, a helpful onlooker called out in answer to the rhetorical question.
Without mentioning DeLauro by name, Winsley said “the avoidance of all joint forums is clear.”
“I’m here to say, ‘No more,’” he said. “And to say, ‘Yes, you deserve effective representation and by God, you will have it from me.’”
“This election is far too important for anyone to be given a free pass,” Winsley said. “We, the people, will not be denied.”
Winsley said candidate forums are not an acceptable response to his demand. “These are not debates,” he said. “Basically, it’s a meet and greet.”
Winsley said he had received an email about the proposed televised debate just a half-hour before his event. He said he would accept the debate. “I will be there.”
State GOP Chair Jerry Labriola (at left in photo) called it a “travesty of democracy” that DeLauro hasn’t debated Winsley.
“We’ve always taken part in forums and debates,” said Tickey, DeLauro’s campaign manager. He said that the congresswoman will be at candidate forums on Oct. 22 and 28 and that he has set up a “Face The State” televised debate with WFSB Channel 3 on a date to be determined. Tickey said he also approached NBC 30 about a televised debate and is waiting to hear back.
Tickey rejected the notion that voters don’t know DeLauro’s positions. “People know Rosa DeLauro.” She has office hours in every community in the district, he said. “They know her. They trust her.”
As for Winsley’s dismissal of forums and insistence on three debates, Tickey said “Forums are a great opportunity for dialogue,” and “to each his own as to what they think is a good number” for the amount of debates there ought to be. Two forums and a debate is sufficient, he said.
Tickey said DeLauro is running a full campaign. “We take nothing for granted.”
Voters seeking substantive debate on the issues can look to the Independent’s ongoing Third District campaign-issues series, featuring interviews with each of the candidates on a variety of topics. Two have so far been published, on the environment and on health care. More are on the way.