ELYRIA — State Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, has challenged Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams to two debates that would be moderated by journalists and broadcast on local radio stations.
Williams, a Republican whose re-election bid is being challenged by Lundy, said he has no problem with the two debates, but he also maintains that he’d like a debate that would be moderated by local union leaders.
Lundy has rejected Williams’ suggested format, which would see each candidate given five minutes to answer questions about themselves, their qualifications and what they would do if elected. Neither candidate would be allowed to attack his opponent under that format, Williams has said.
Lundy has dismissed Williams’ proposal as speechmaking, not debating.
Under the terms Lundy laid out in a letter sent to Williams and his campaign manager, Kipton Mayor Bob Meilander, each candidate would get to make opening and closing statements as well as alternating questions with a chance for rebuttal.
Both Williams and Meilander said Thursday they have not received the letter, which Lundy said he sent by certified mail earlier this week.
Williams said Lundy and his campaign manager, Sheffield Mayor John Hunter, have been ignoring their calls, emails and Facebook messages seeking to discuss the debates for weeks.
“If he can’t talk with me, how is he going to handle (being) a commissioner?” Williams said.
Jim Slone, president of the United Auto Workers’ CAP Council, said he didn’t understand why Lundy doesn’t want to participate in a union-led debate, something that he said could play a role when it comes time for the union to hand out endorsements in the election.
“I want to know what his problem with unions holding the debate is,” Slone said.
Lundy said he was surprised by Slone’s comments, especially since he helped Slone with debate preparation when the union leader was running as a Democrat against U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, in 2012.
“It’s time to give some other groups, be it newspapers or radio stations, the chance to moderate,” Lundy said.
Lundy said he and Williams already have done a debate moderated by the AFL-CIO and the CAP Council. That debate in April was a more traditional format, although Williams has accused Lundy of using it to launch unfounded attacks on him. Lundy has said he was challenging Williams’ record.
Also Thursday, Lundy put out a news release blasting Williams for signing a petition that would have put a proposal to reform how county government is organized before voters in November.
Citizens for Equal Representation, the group behind the proposal, didn’t gather enough signatures for this year’s ballot, but former Republican county Commissioner Dave Moore has said the group will try again next year.
Lundy and other Democrats have criticized the plan, which would create a seven-member county council that would appoint many positions, such as county treasurer and recorder, which are now elected positions.
Williams said he never really took a position on the reform plan, but did sign the petition. He said he routinely signs petitions to put issues on the ballot, even if he doesn’t agree with them.
For instance, although he opposes legalizing marijuana, Williams said he signed a petition that would have put medical marijuana and industrial hemp before Ohio voters. That effort also failed to gather enough signatures to make it on the November ballot.
“I believe people should have the right to vote on any kind of change to any type of government,” Williams said.
Lundy said he found that answer surprising.
“I just believe people sign a petition when they support a petition and don’t sign it when they don’t support a petition,” he said.