Challenger Barbara Weitz has turned down the chance to debate incumbent Hal Daub in a University of Nebraska Board of Regents race, calling that kind of forum divisive.
The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha hoped to organize the debate between Weitz and Daub, who are vying for the Board of Regents’ District 8 seat. District 8 includes much of Douglas County.
Daub is a former Omaha mayor and former member of the U.S. House. He has been on the Board of Regents for six years.
Weitz is a former University of Nebraska at Omaha faculty member who has a UNO building named for her.
The league plans to oversee debates, or forums, for many elected positions before the Nov. 6 general election.
After the two candidates batted around some potential dates, Weitz told the league’s Geri Simon that she had decided against participating in a debate with Daub.
Weitz said in an email this week to The World-Herald: “I did say I felt the debate-type format could be divisive and have a polarizing effect on our system.”
Daub, an attorney and longtime politician, expressed disappointment. He said he and his opponent “ought to take every opportunity we can for joint appearances.”
Weitz won a three-person primary in May with 43.8 percent of the vote to Daub’s 41.6 percent.
The forums, Daub said, give voters a chance to gauge a candidate’s views, ability to handle questions, demeanor and performance under pressure. Debates reveal a candidate in a raw way that isn’t processed and packaged through a marketing firm, he said.
“I enjoy debate,” said Daub, who has served in the U.S. House, as Omaha’s mayor and now for six years on the NU Board of Regents. “I enjoyed debate in high school. I enjoyed debate in college.” Daub is 77 years old.
Weitz, 70, has said the only thing she ever ran for before was safety patrol in sixth grade.
“I am not a politician,” Weitz said in an email. “I think Nebraskans want information and thoughtful answers to what are complex issues. I find the debate format does not offer time for well-reasoned responses to questions.”
Weitz and her husband, investor Wally Weitz, have contributed financially to UNO. The university has a building called the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center.
Daub is known as a talkative and combative politician. He called debate “a tried and true, old-fashioned way of looking” at candidates.
Simon said the format is a way to help voters make their decisions on Election Day. “We’re trying to do as many as we can,” Simon said. “Our goal is voter education.”
She said the league videos debates at the KPAO public access cable TV studio in Omaha. They typically are broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Cox Channel 22 and CenturyLink Channel 89. Once a debate airs, it’s placed on the league’s GOVoteOmaha channel on YouTube for viewing anytime.
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