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Last week we asked our Facebook fans whether they believed there should be debates in the Republican primary races for congressional seats.

Every congressional district in Iowa is in the midst of a Republican primary. Some, of course, are viewed as “more competitive” than others.

But here is the Iowa Standard’s position on debates — if there is a contested race, then the candidates owe it to the voters to debate one another. Period.

This is especially necessary in the 2020 campaign. As candidates attempt to campaign in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters are truly left with the short stick.

Traditionally, Iowans are spoiled when it comes to access to those running to represent us. We’re used to being able to have conversations with candidates and getting our questions answered.

But that is made more difficult with social distancing guidelines keeping candidates away from traditional campaigning such as door knocking or speaking at public events and instead stuck in a holding pattern.

While debating isn’t always viewed as beneficial for some candidates (typically candidate who is an overwhelming favorite), it is irrelevant to the question at hand.

The question at hand is whether or not there should be debates if there is a contested primary. In order to answer that question, we must first ask who is seeking to serve whom in this scenario.

While it is noble and admirable that someone decided to run for office and is willing to serve, they are not doing voters a “favor” in doing so. We (the voters) do not answer to them (the candidates). They answer to us.

At the end of the day, all candidates benefit from a debate because the reality is anyone elected is going to be challenged on their positions eventually. Every general election will feature a debate. The more someone espouses their ideas, the more they believe their ideas and the better they get at articulating them.

Debates in the primary are great practice for debates in the general.

More than that, not debating does a disservice to the voters — the very people these candidates are hoping to represent.

We would all agree that the best electorate is a fully informed electorate. And few things help to educate voters like a debate.

The Iowa Standard believes debates are a basic and necessary part of the electoral process. Debates are practically as fundamental as voting itself.

Think about it. How often do lawmakers vote on a bill without allowing for any debate at all?

Why? Because in our system of government, the open and honest debate needs to happen in order for us to get the best results.

We understand the pros and cons of debating vary greatly for candidates, but The Iowa Standard’s biggest concern when it comes to campaigning is not the candidates, it is the electorate.

Look, candidates who refuse to debate come across in a number of ways — and none of them are good. Refusing to debate makes a candidate look unsure of his or her own positions. Candidates who don’t debate seem presumptuous. They seem to think they’re “above” debating. They seem to think a debate should only happen if it will benefit their candidacy.

In a word, candidates who refuse to debate seem selfish.

We also believe that primary elections — yes, primary elections — are the most important elections.

It is imperative that the electorate is as educated as possible.

With a month left, Republicans in every district should be imploring the candidates to debate each other. Not because it is in the best interest of the candidate, but because it is in the best interest of the voters.

And remember, that is who elections should be all about.

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall