Ryan should accept call for debates

U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, has been slow to accept the challenge from his Republican opponent Chris DePizzo to schedule a number of political debates this election season.

DePizzo of Cuyahoga Falls says Ryan has not debated since 2002, and he wants to debate the eight-term congressman a dozen times during the campaign season.

While 12 may sound excessive, we believe it is important for voters to have several opportunities to observe the two candidates going head-to-head on important issues in public forums. Due to the size of the sprawling five-county 13th congressional district, several debates are needed to allow constituents to attend without driving excessive distances. Of course, as issues evolve and develop, there also is significant value to holding multiple debates throughout the coming months leading up to the November 6 General Election Day.

As DePizzo said, and we agree, “Voters deserve more than sound bite politics and they expect us to rise above the fray and to engage each other directly in a respectful exchange of ideas.”

Ryan’s campaign hasn’t agreed to any specifics, but Ryan did say last week, “there always is and there always should be” debates.

Ryan’s spokesman added that Ryan plans to attend many candidate forums and debate opportunities throughout the district, and that he “looks forward to having a robust exchange of views with the other candidates at these events.”

That’s good, but falls short of committing to specific debates.

We hope Ryan takes seriously DePizzo’s debate challenge and that Ryan’s willingness to speak about issues is not limited to only friendly questioning settings like the town hall forum he hosted last week in Youngstown. There, Ryan was very willing to stand up and answer questions picked by lottery from members of his constituency and with little follow-up questioning. The setting allowed Ryan the opportunity to share unchallenged his views and opinions without navigating around more hardball objections or opposition.

Several regulated and neutral debates will give the voters a better opportunity to see each candidate’s responses to more challenging questions that the 13th congressional district and our society faces today.