Leahy challenger says he's ducking

Friday July 23, 2010

MONTPELIER -- U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy's primary opponent is accusing him of ducking debates. The six-term incumbent says it isn't so.

Daniel Freilich, a U.S. Navy Reserve physician running against Leahy in the Aug. 24 Democratic primary election, says Leahy has rejected invitations to candidate forums and debates and is "scared" of him.

Wants to debate

Freilich says candidate debates are a basic element of the democratic process, and that Leahy's refusal to participate in forums held by WCAX-TV and a Burlington public access TV station show shortchanges voters.

"If elections include debates and public discourse about public issues and one is not going to partake in those, you could make the argument of dispensing with the elections altogether and just having an appointment letter sent to the incumbent every six years," said Freilich, who has filed to run in the Nov. 2 general election in case he loses in the primary.

Freilich, who's making his first bid for public office, faces an uphill battle against the veteran Democrat, who has represented Vermont on Capitol Hill since 1975 and has $3.2 million in campaign cash -- compared to Freilich's $1,700, as of June 30.

The two have agreed to appear Aug. 4 on Vermont Public Radio's "Vermont Edition," a live call-in program that will include taking questions from callers and will be heard statewide twice that day.

Leahy also plans to debate all of his challengers prior to the Nov. 2 election, campaign manager Carolyn Dwyer said Friday.

Leahy wasn't contacted until two days before the WCAX-TV program and already had a commitment, she said. The other forum was during the work week, when he is Washington, said Dwyer.

She called Freilich's criticism a bid for attention.

"We do not place a high priority on debating someone in the Democratic primary who is also running as an independent in the general election. Senator Leahy's top priority is doing his job for Vermont. He does look forward to debating all (seven) candidates in the general election," Dwyer said in an e-mail Friday.

The candidates who have filed to run in the general election are: Freilich, Republican Len Britton and independents Peter Diamondstone, Johenry Nunes, Cris Ericson, Stephen J. Cain and Rick Russell.


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