Friday, October 19, 2001

Debate observers say panelists were easier on Fuller




By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Days after the city's first-ever bona fide, broadcast mayoral debate, pundits and politicos were trying to size up who won.

        Some say Courtis Fuller seemed scripted; others think Charlie Luken showed his true colors by seeming annoyed by some of the questions.

        Indeed, some of the panelists' questions to Mr. Luken seemed tougher than those Mr. Fuller got.

        WLWT anchor Dave Wagner (who replaced Mr. Luken at Channel 5 and worked with Mr. Fuller) asked Mr. Luken: “Are you proud of what you see when you go through Over-the-Rhine? And do you walk through Over-the-Rhine?”

        He also asked Mr. Fuller whether he thought the Rev. Damon Lynch III was a “healer or a divider.”

        Panelist Howard Bond of the African-American Political Caucus accused Mr. Luken of selling out his party. “You run as a Democrat but it appears you govern as a Republican, joining more with Phil Heimlich, Chris Monzel and Pat DeWine than you do with your own Democrats.”

        He asked Mr. Fuller if he would commit not to cut programs such as the Human Relations Commission that are important to the black community.

        “I don't think anyone was trying to treat Courtis with kid gloves,” Mr. Bond said later. “But he's a fresh face, and doesn't have a track record for people to question. Mr. Luken does.”

        But if Mr. Fuller got an advantage, it ended when audience members started asking questions.

        Mary Kuhl of Westwood asked Mr. Fuller why he seemed to be ducking debates and other media events, and a man from Mount Washington asked him whether he had any government or managerial experience.

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More debates: If Mr. Luken felt he got beat in Tuesday night's debate, he wasn't letting on.

        He said he would debate Mr. Fuller at any time, any day, on any station.

        “It is time for Courtis Fuller to stop this peek-a-boo campaign,” Mr. Luken said. “He must come out of hiding and debate the real issues that will affect the city for years to come.”

        So far, Mr. Fuller isn't biting. He said two debates are plenty, and suggested that Mr. Luken is desperate to make up ground after his disappointing second-place finish in the Sept. 11 primary.

        The next scheduled debate is 8 p.m. Oct. 30 on WLWT (Channel 5).

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        Who flipped?: In Tuesday night's debate, Mr. Luken criticized Mr. Fuller for “flip-flopping” on the question of whether the city should hire more police officers. He said Mr. Fuller said one thing to the group Westwood Concerns, and says something else now.

        Mr. Fuller denied changing his position.

        Who's right? You decide.

        (In both cases the question was whether Mr. Fuller supported the proposal by Councilman John Cranley to add 75 officers.)

        Mr. Fuller in Westwood, Aug. 28: “I do support the proposal. I've been talking about the whole concept of looking at our policing needs in the city, and that is one way of saying that if in fact we need more police officers on the streets, then we need to find a way to put more police officers on the streets.”

        Mr. Fuller in Winton Place, Oct. 16: “In terms of adding police officers, let me set the record straight, because you can't always believe what you read. The fact of the matter is that I've said that we don't need more police officers until we take a critical look at the staffing needs of the Police Division. We've said that all along. Somehow or another, it came out that I support adding police officers right now.”

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        Repeats: Given WCIN's 500-watt nighttime signal, Tuesday's debate may have been difficult for many voters to hear. The debate will be televised on Citicable (Time Warner Channel 23) eight times over the next few days.

        The schedule is: 1 and 6 p.m. today; 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; noon Sunday; and 9 a.m. Monday.

       



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