As one who moderated many of the previous Press Club debates before stepping aside a couple of years ago, I'm not inclined to salute this wary twosome for their political wisdom and courage. For better or worse, debates come with the territory, particularly for these guys whose yearnings tell them they ought to be in political office for awhile until something better comes along.
Item: Ganley, the mega-auto dealer who is relying heavily on TV ads, did make a solo appearance at the Press Club last fall when he was running for the U.S. Senate. But he has flinched at the thought of facing an incumbent now that he is running for Congress. (He didn't even show up for Alex Arshinkoff's big finance dinner.) DeWine finally agreed to speak alone on Sept. 28 without the bother of an opponent staring him in the face. So Cordray has had to settle for an appearance sans DeWine on Oct. 7.
There has been a long tradition at the Press Club that when both candidates are invited, there would be an empty chair for either candidate who didn't show up. The Cleveland City Club has played by those rules, too. In this instance, however, Press Club board members tell me that club president Bruce Winges, the Beacon Journal editor, is skittish about having Sutton speak alone without offering Ganley another date for his solo even though he's already been there in a campaign mode. Inexplicably, Winges, in a conciliatory mood, is said to feel that unless he gave Ganley a similar opportunity now it would look too "political" by the Press Club. Good grief! Will there next be an agreement to have Ganley address the club's audience from his patio?
Time out for a little history here: Over the years Democrats have always agreed to debate their opponents. The late Rep John Seiberling never turned down a challenge from his opponent. When the Press Club series began a decade ago, neither Mayor Don Plusquellic nor former County Executive Jim McCarthy failed to show up at the Martin Center on time to face their rivals.
The rules of combat have now changed and the Press Club's front office is riding the fence when there shouldn't be the slightest question about what it should do. Why now?