candidate debates
(Shannon Sipes)

This Wednesday, NonDoc will host its first political candidate debate. The Tussle at the Tower will feature the three men seeking to become Oklahoma County’s next sheriff: P.D. Taylor, Mike Hanson and Ed Grimes.

The event — 6 to 7 p.m. at the Tower Theatre, 425 N.W. 23rd St. — will mark the first of what we hope will be many political debates in our future.

We believe the public deserves to have candidates for local, state and federal offices stand before the public and answer questions about their policy positions, their campaigns and their visions for the offices they seek.

Fair and responsible debates benefit democracy, but for too long Oklahomans have been deprived of chances to see and hear candidates debate.

Recent history on candidate debates

In November 2014, Oklahomans voted among gubernatorial candidates. Incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin ultimately defeated Democratic challenger Joe Dorman. Fallin parlayed superior fundraising into more TV and radio air time, meaning her consultant-crafted messages out-reached Dorman’s in terms of market saturation.

But the Oklahoma populace only had one opportunity to see Fallin and Dorman debate each other in a public setting: on the campus of OSU in Stillwater. That means they did not debate each other in Oklahoma City, in Tulsa, in Lawton, in McAlester or anywhere else across the state.

Media should ask for debates, demand if necessary

While there is a tendency to blame candidates for not appearing in more debates, the blame for that dearth in Oklahoma lies with one group: local media.

When media fail to commit to requesting — and, if necessary, demanding — candidate debates, the politicians and their parties are let off the hook. Sure, partisan-advocacy organizations may call for debates or forums of their own, but (perceived) partisan requests grant candidates a ready-made excuse to decline.

Media, on the other hand, are tasked with subscribing to ethical and fair presentations (though some on the left and right often disagree when coverage falls short of their personal goals). As such, Oklahoma media must spearhead efforts to re-establish candidate debates as expected events.

We appreciate the candidates, supporters

Remember, candidates are running to represent the public, no matter the office. The perception that candidate debates are difficult to operate, costly to put on or unnecessary must be overcome.

To that end, we appreciate Taylor, Hanson and Grimes for their willingness to debate Wednesday. We also appreciate our partners, sponsors and participating journalists for their support of a fair, responsible debate for this important office.

We look forward to seeing you 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Tower Theatre. You may RSVP on Facebook here if you would like, but an RSVP is not required to attend.