Lavoie: The more debates, the better

Candidate debates are a staple of local politics, and debating about debates is quickly becoming a local tradition too.

Paul Lavoie, the Republican candidate for first selectman, has challenged his fellow candidates, Democrat Vicki Tesoro and petitioning candidate Michael Redgate, to a total of eight public appearances. That number would include five traditional debates and three joint town hall-style gatherings.

“I believe that it is vitally important to allow the voters many opportunities to meet the candidates, learn of our vision for Trumbull and to ask questions relating to town governance,” Lavoie said. “It has been 28 years since Trumbull’s last election with three candidates running for first selectman so there should be more debates and town hall meetings to allow voters to know exactly where each candidate stands on the important issues facing our town.”

Lavoie singled out Tesoro for criticism, stating that the Democratic candidate had “flatly rejected” participating in that many events.

“It is clear that Vicki does not want to debate and has no intention of defending her positions to Trumbull voters,” Lavoie Campaign Manager Rick Constantini said. “It is easy to release scripted videos online and much more difficult to state a position and defend that position when opponents raise questions.”

Democratic Chairman Tom Kelly said the premise of Lavoie’s claim was absurd.

“Two years ago, Vicki debated a three-term incumbent first selectman three times, and she acquitted herself extremely well,” he said. “She’s demonstrated that if she was ready, willing and able to debate Tim Herbst, she won’t shy away from a debate with Paul Lavoie.”

Kell said the number of events proposed by the Lavoie camp was simply excessive.

“Last year we had three debates between candidates for President of the United States,” Kelly said. “So we think three debates is fine for first selectman of Trumbull.”

Kelly also pointed out that the Democrats have proposed debates between candidates for Board of Education and Board of Finance, plus a group forum for Town Council candidates, to which the Republicans have not agreed.

For his part, Redgate said he would participate in as many joint events as the other candidates agreed to attend.

“I met with Rick and Paul, and told them that if both the other candidates would attend, I would be there too,” he said. “When Paul’s side said they wanted eight debates, and Vicki’s said they wanted three, I said ‘Let’s do five.’”

But Redgate was adamant that he would only participate in events that included the other two candidates, saying there was no point in having two candidates attend a function where the third was missing.

“If only one of the others was going to be there, I can just do my own event,” he said.