Debate is vital to a healthy democracy.  

Policies and positions forged in the crucible of debate, discussion, and sharing of ideas lead to better governance.  The give-and-take of a face-to-face debate helps voters weigh candidates and their policies far better than canned attack ads or superficial campaign literature.  Sharing ideas across the table might even help identify areas of bipartisan agreement.

And for the last six years, we’ve constantly heard from Democrats that our democracy is in peril.

So why won’t Gerry Connolly debate Jim Myles, his Republican opponent in the 2022 congressional race?  Why won’t he even participate in a town hall forum with Myles?

Mr. Connolly has told us why he doesn’t think he needs to debate.  At a Candidates’ Day event at Oakton High School a few weeks back, a surrogate for Mr. Connolly told Mr. Myles and the audience that Mr. Connolly had participated in 250 debates and didn’t need to participate in any additional debates.

The Connolly team’s response exposes Connolly’s breathtaking contempt for the electorate.  The world didn’t stop turning after Connolly’s 250th debate.  Our current crises—from inflation, to rising energy prices, to our ballooning national debt, to pandemic-related learning loss—have all exploded since Mr. Connolly’s last election in 2020.  

Perhaps the timing of these various crises – all arising after 2021, when Democrats took complete control of Washington – explains why the cat suddenly has Connolly’s tongue.

The voters of Virginia’s 11th congressional district deserve the opportunity to compare the policies of Connolly and Myles.  Fairfax voters face no shortage of serious problems.  Sky-high inflation affecting basic goods, including groceries and gas, is harming families and seniors on fixed incomes.  Voters deserve to know what each candidate will do to fight inflation, and, in the case of Mr. Connolly, why inflation continues to rage after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act he supported.

Voters also deserve to know where the candidates stand on education issues.  Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31) recently proposed legislation that would treat parents who refuse to affirm their child’s stated gender identity as child abusers facing criminal penalties.  Does Mr. Connolly support this proposed legislation?  And how do the candidates propose to help children recover from pandemic-related learning loss?  

Fairfax voters also are entitled to know whether Connolly still supports the defund the police movement that remains so popular among Democratic activists.  Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano continues to take a lenient approach to crime even as crime rates are rising.  Fairfax voters deserve to know whether Connolly approves of the Descano approach to prosecuting crime.

If democracy is truly in as much danger as Democrats routinely claim, they should support one of the most democratic activities of all: candidates facing the voters, debating issues, and taking responsibility for the consequences of their policies.  If Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglass could debate on the cusp of the Civil War, surely Gerry Connolly can muster the courage to defend his policies in public today.

Michael E. Ginsberg is chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia’s 11th Congressional District Committee.

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