Saturday October 6, 2012

It now appears that Governor Peter Shumlin will be a no-show for a planned gubernatorial debate Oct. 11 in Bennington, which will be aired by CAT-TV.

The debate, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Bennington Firehouse, is expected to draw the governor's Republican challenger, Senator Randy Brock of Franklin County, and independent candidate Annette Smith.

This is a situation that the governor should not allow to continue. While debates he has participated in or plans to attend in other areas of the state might attract wider, statewide media coverage, and while Mr. Shumlin hails from Southern Vermont -- albeit from across the mountains in the Brattleboro area -- Bennington County voters have every right to feel dissed if he doesn't spend one evening debating here.

We expect that Senator Brock and Annette Smith will appear in Bennington and likely will make the most of the governor's absence. They should. These might not rival the Lincoln-Douglas debates in terms of historic significance, but we think they should include all of the candidates, especially the incumbent and apparent frontrunner. And the candidates should debate in all areas of Vermont -- not such an overwhelming task given its size.

If there is a reasonable explanation for the lack of a commitment to the Bennington event, the governor should state it. Voters from this corner of the state would be interested. But, ideally, the governor should simply find a way to rearrange his schedule to attend and participate. We hope he does.