Thursday, August 17, 2006

No live cameras: McSweeney, Bean, Scheurer 8th CD NSACI forum.

Update 2: Text revised slightly and information about the forum added at 1:00 pm on Friday.
Update: Links added at 12:40 pm on Thursday to video interviews with 8th CD candidates Bean, McSweeney and Scheurer as well as forum moderator Dick Kay and others.
Congresswoman Melissa Bean's [D-Barrington] Campaign put out, yesterday, a notice [see here] of the Congresswoman’s willingness to do three forums with her Republican opponent, David McSweeney [Barrington Hills], and her third party opponent, Bill Scheurer [M-Lindenhurst]. Bean calls them debates, but at least one event [sponsored by NSACI- Northwest Suburban Alliance for Commerce and Industry] next Thursday morning and most likely all three events will have rules that more closely resemble forums than robust debates. Further, broadcast and cablecast coverage has been constrained, at the request of the Bean campaign.

In the NSACI event, a candidate will be given two minutes to answer a question, and one of the two other candidates, on a rotating basis, will be given a minute to respond to the question and/or reply or comment on the first candidate’s answer. However, the candidates will not be given an opportunity to ask questions of the other candidates, as would be allowed in a debate, with robust give and take.
[To watch interviews of 8th CD Candidates Scheurer, McSweeney and Bean, as well as Obama, McCain and others, go here]

Dick Kay,who retired from NBC-5 News on June 1, after more than three decades as that Chicago station’s political editor,
[To watch Dick Kay interviewed, go here]
, will moderate the forum. This event will be run quite differently from the debate Kay hosted at the end of May as a special one hour edition of his NBC CityDesk program with Democratic Governor Blagojevich and his Republican challenger, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. At that event, there were no ground rules: Kay came up with most of the questions, but the candidates could ask each other questions and the program [which was essentially ive to tape] was broadcast through-out the state of Illinois, with a podcast also available from NBC’s web site.

In the NSACI 8th CD forum, Kay will compile and ask about 75% of the questions, based on questions submitted at the breakfast prior to the forum by the 200 member, by invitation only, audience and only about 25% of the questions will come from Dick Kay’s own thoughts. Each of NSACI's 21 board members will be able to invite 5 attendees , and each of the three campaigns will be able to invite 10 attendees, with any campaign staff who attend included within that 10 attendee limitation.

Bob Rylko, NSACI President, who was involved, along with his Board, in setting up the forum, started the discussions, including the debate rules, with the Bean campaign first, because Melissa Bean is the incumbent, he said.

The Bean Campaign, according to Rylko, was the first one to ask him if NSACI’s intention was to have live coverage of their event. Rylko responded to the Bean campaign that it depended on the media reaction that NSACI got to their event, and he in turn asked why they brought it up. The Bean campaign responded that their preference would be for “no live TV [coverage of the NSACI event].” Rylko replied, “all right, it is no big deal to me.” Rylko said yesterday that, “at the time, given what our objective was, i.e., to get the [debate] hosting opportunity, it didn’t bother me, it wasn’t a big deal to me. I figured they [the Bean campaign] must have had a reason.”
Apparently so.

NSACI President Rylko indicated that broadcast and cablecast cameras will be allowed, however, to tape the event, but not “intact.” Rylko indicated that TV cameras can tape the entire event, but not air it in its entirety. However, they could, for example, edit the hour forum into a half hour show. [Subsequent to my initial write-up of this post, I learned that this "rule," has been modified or clarified, and that media will be permitted to air the forum in its entirety, or edited portions, as they choose.] However, non-media attendees will not be permitted to record, by audio or video, any portion of the forum.

Apparently, the Bean Campaign is television shy, as they have also turned down, among other debate offers, a broadcast debate offer from ABC-7 News, a cablecast debate sponsored by “Public Affairs,” and a cablecast debate offer from CLTV.

This is a somewhat different Melissa Bean than the candidate who emphasized, in the 2004 campaign, the importance of televised debates with the then incumbent Cong. Crane to inform the electorate of the candidates’ positions and how they engaged each other and the issues.

The other two forums accepted by Bean are scheduled for August 28 and September 5, and the date for a WBBM-AM Radio AT ISSUE joint appearance for the three candidates has apparently not been set yet.

Republican Challenger David McSweeney [Barrington Hills], who, for months, has been calling for 24 debates, one in each township in the 8th CD, is not backing off and says he still wants to have 24 debates among all three candidates and wonders why Bean is unwilling to schedule anything for the last two months of the campaign. Moderate Party candidate Bill Scheurer [Lindenhurst] has voiced similar concerns.

David McSweeney said it is clear that “the entire Bean strategy is going to be to run negative ads, hide behind government paid spokespersons and try to avoid a discussion of the issues. So, I look forward to these forums and we’ll be able to point out the hypocrisy of Melissa Bean and her multiple positions on all the issues and we very much look forward to having this as an initial discussion, but we need to have more and we need to have a continued dialogue. And, when are we going to have interchange[where] the candidates can engage back and forth and ask questions about the various answers [from the other candidates]. I think that is the best format. But, I am very much looking forward to these forums. They are not debates, unfortunately. They are forums.”

The Bean Campaign was unavailable for comment.
The 8th Cong. Dist. has about 35% of its voters in Northwest Cook County, about 50% of its voters in West Lake County and 15% of its voters in McHenry County.

The District is thought to be the most Republican in the State, or so says Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. President Bush won it 56% to 44% in 2004. The Repubican nature of the 8th CD is one of the three most important factors in the 2006 race.

Another one of the most important factors in the 8th CD race is that Cong. Bean beat 35 year incumbent Phil Crane in 2004, 52% to 48%, or by about 9000 votes. Cong. Bean has worked the District hard as an incumbent and has on many key votes voted with the Republican House majority, i.e., voted her District. McSweeney argues, however, that on many such bills, Cong. Bean voted to "kill the bill," before she turned around and voted for it, claiming that is similar to John Kerry's famous, "I voted for the War before I voted against it."

Another of the three most important factors is the presence of third party candidate Bill Scheurer on the ballot. Scheurer, due in large part to Bean's vote for CAFTA, has attracted substantial union support from the Machinists, the Steelworkers, Unite, SEIU and the Teamsters. The unions were a strong part of Bean's base in 2004. And, Scheurer is the anti-war candidate in the race, representing as DNC Chairman Howard Dean once said, "The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party." Will Scheurer become a major player in the race? Or, could he be the spoiler, picking up, say, the 7400 votes he got in the 2004 Democratic Primary against Bean, or the the 13,000 votes from those who signed the nominating petitions he filed at the end of June. If so, that would be 3 to 5% of the vote, which could, itself, tip the election to McSweeney.

Oh yes, and then there are the debates, or should I say forums, which could also have an impact--if the candidates can engage each other and if they are seen or heard.

All in all, one thing is for sure. Nobody wins this race by more than four points. You can take that to the Bank and collect interest.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at