Through the combined efforts of the Akron Press Club and the Bliss Institute the Akron area will get a closer view of some statewide candidates on the November ballot. Democrat State Rep. Connie Pillich, who is challenging Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel, will open the fall series on Sept. 30.
Unfortunately, there will be no political debates. University of Akron political science professor David Cohen, who does much of the heavy lifting for the fall series, said the process of setting up debates has simply become too complicated.
We experienced some of those complications when I served as the Press Club's program chairman. Republicans simply aren't keen on meeting their Democratic opponents on a debate panel, particularly in Akron, where more than a few nitwits accused the Club of being a subversive Democratic hideaway. (As Press Club president, I had at least four Republicans on my board.) One critic even reported me to the national Veterans of Foreign Wars for catering to socialists!
In one instance, we had succeeded in lining up a debate between Democrat Capri Cafaro, of Niles, Oh., and then-U.S.Rep, Steve LaTourette, a Lake County Republican. We later learned that LaTourette had canceled his appearance for the age-old standby, a scheduling conflict. So Cafaro had the benefit of the entire program for herself.
The late U.S. Rep. John Seiberling, a towering Democrat who had nothing to be gained from debates, agreed to more than a half-dozen encounters with restaurateur, Mark Figitakis, a Republicsn running squarely and hyperactively on the anti-abortion issue. I covered the first one at the Tangier Restaurant in which Seiberling calmly, cooly, and collectively left the Republican for dead. (I told Seiberling afterward that he could debate as often as he wanted, but this was my first and last one as a political writer. He smiled gently and said he enjoyed fulfilling his obligation to voters to debate, no matter what.)
Akron Mayor, Don Plusquellic, a Democrat , also accepted debate invitations from the Press Club. But over on the other side, Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff refused all attempts to haul him up to the debate panel against Republican Kevin Coughlin, who was challenging Arshinkoff for his job. The normally voluble chairman flatly turned it down. "I should have known," Coughlin told me.
I should have, too.