Washington, CT

October 2011 - DEBATE IS ON AGAIN!

Lyon Agrees to Debate Hileman

[Oct. 3, 2011] What was shaping up to be the “Empty Chair Debate of 2011” will now be a full-fledged face-off between all of the Democratic and Republican candidates for the Washington Board of Selectmen. It will take place, as originally planned, on Tuesday, October 11, at 7:00 PM in Bryan Memorial Town Hall. Republican candidates Mark Lyon and Dick Carey, will debate Democratic candidates Wayne Hileman and Susan Luckett Jahnke.

Surprise Announcement at Town Meeting

Announcement of this unexpected turn of events was made at the end of an otherwise routine Town Meeting on Monday night before a sparse audience of two dozen citizens. The meeting’s moderator, Hank Martin, read a prepared statement from Mark Lyon and Wayne Hileman regarding the on-again off-again debate:

“I am happy to report tonight that the two candidates for First Selectman have decided to take back control of their respective political processes, with the goal of having a debate on the important issues facing the Town of Washington, for the good of the voters. Toward this end, they met face-to-face earlier today, with their mutually agreed upon moderator, and agreed upon the ground rules for this debate as follows:

• The debate will take place on Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 7PM at Bryan Memorial Town Hall.

• The debate will include the two candidates for First Selectman and also the two candidates for Selectman.

• The voters attending this debate will have the opportunity to submit written questions for the candidates to the Moderator. The Town Hall will be open at 6:30PM to facilitate the voters writing their questions.

• The Moderator for this debate will be Hank Martin.”

Turnaround by Republicans

This announcement took the audience by surprise. Early last month, the Washington Republican Town Committee (WRTC) had agreed with its Democratic counterpart on a debate, only to back out of it by the end of the month (more details). This withdrawal led to some unfavorable news reports in the Waterbury Republican-American and in Voices.

Apparently, reacting to this negative news coverage, the Republicans abandoned their opposition to the debate and decided to step up and fill what would otherwise have been two empty chairs on stage. The Democrats had planned to go ahead with a debate even if the Republicans did not show up. No doubt, the prospect of the public’s reaction to such a one-sided “debate” convinced the Republicans that it made more sense to switch than fight.

Hank Martin Will Be Moderator

Hank Martin, a Republican and former Chairman of the Zoning Commission, will be the moderator for the debate. He had been the first choice of the Democrats early last month, but the WRTC had preferred someone else. This became a sticking point.

Mr. Martin agreed to act as moderator for the newly resuscitated debate only on condition that both parties concur in his role and that he be given discretion to decide how the debate will be conducted.

“I have complete faith in Hank Martin,” said Independent Wayne Hileman, the Democratic-endorsed candidate for First Selectman. “Time and time again, Hank has proven himself to be scrupulous in his objectivity when moderating town meetings or chairing many contentious public hearings before the Zoning Commission. The fact that he’s a Republican doesn’t concern me a bit. “

Ground Rules for Debate

This year’s debate will follow a format that has become familiar from past debates since 2001. The doors to the Town Hall will be open at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, Oct. 11, to give the audience a chance to write questions on index cards for the moderator to review.

The debate will begin at 7:00 PM with opening statements from each of the four candidates: Mark Lyon, Republican, and Wayne Hileman, candidates for First Selectman; Dick Carey, Republican, for Selectman; and Susan Luckett Jahnke, Democrat, for Selectman.

Then the questions will be posed to each candidate with time for rebuttal. At the end of the debate there will be closing statements from each candidate.

Washington Voters Win

"I'm thrilled that we're having a debate," said Wayne Hileman, "mainly for the sake of Washington’s voters. They’ve become accustomed to debates over the past ten years. They need them in order to size up the candidates and decide whom to vote for. It’s American democracy at its finest, with citizens participating directly in the questioning of those who seek to lead them for the next two years.”