Newport Has A Political Race So Heated, They’re Pre-Debating A Debate

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Mike Smith comes out swinging after State Representative Lauren Carson (D-75) accuses him of avoiding debate.

Typically in Rhode Island politics, it’s the incumbent that wishes to avoid a public debate of the issues which is why it was why some were left scratching their head when Representative Lauren Carson announced that her challenger Mike Smith wouldn’t face her in a debate to be held by the League of Women Voters.

In an email sent out Monday morning, Carson gave Smith a full broadside.

Voters deserve the opportunity to see all candidates answer questions and be put on record for what they will do as an elected official. I whole heartedly agreed to to participate in a public debate with this extremely credible organization, the League of Women Voters. I was looking forward to a full public discussion on the issues. Mr. Smith is not allowing the Newport voters he might represent know about his record, his qualifications, his experience and his positions on key issues facing Newport and Rhode Island…My opponent likes to engage in one-sided rhetoric but won’t debate issues and that is a disservice to voters. If my opponent will not debate me, then I will take my campaign to Newport voters, one door at a time.

Within hours, Mike Smith’s campaign responded, declaring that Smith was more than ready to debate, but his early RSVP had somehow disappeared.

I have recently been accused by my opponent of not being willing to participate in the debate being organized by the Newport County League of Women Voters.

Let me assure you nothing could be further from the truth. I am actually quite excited about the prospect of being able to debate my opponent on the issues and, even more important, on her dismal voting record.

When originally invited by the NCLWV to participate I responded immediately but was informed that they didn’t get my response. However, all has been rectified this morning as I was in direct contact with them and have been told, thankfully, that the debate is on.

Mike Smith’s response also included these parting shots…

I offer my apologies for any confusion I may have caused regarding my willingness to debate. But I can assure all the voters of District 75 that I am ready, willing and able to publicly debate my opponent. I like you am very interested to hear why she has voted for tolls, against car tax relief almost 100% of the time with the Speaker, to name just a few of the anti-tax payer pro special interest votes she has cast.

In closing, I would like to suggest that in the future, my opponent, Lauren Carson, takes the time to do her homework and to have her facts straight before going public with a false accusation. The public has a right to expect as much from someone who wants the honor of representing them.

As much as the focus is on the Presidential campaign and the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tonight, voters should be aware that the decisions that really affect their lives typically happen at the state and local level. Back in 2014, John Oliver examined state elections across the country, but couldn’t avoid focusing on the Ocean State and managed to include the term “peak Rhode Island” in the segment.

That is to say, Newport voters should devote some attention to the race for District 75.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Political Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?