Democratic 'road team' debates for U.S. Senate seat

Michelle Nunn a no-show

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comApril 23, 2014 

Not once did the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate say the name of front-runner Michelle Nunn during Wednesday night's televised debate at Columbus State University's downtown campus.

Retired Army veteran Todd Robinson of Columbus didn't say it.

Former Georgia state Sen. Steen Miles of Atlanta did not use the name, but did call Nunn the "presumptive nominee" and blasted her for not showing up at debates across the state.

Branko Radulovacki, an Atlanta board-certified psychiatrist known as Dr. Rad, also avoided using Nunn's name.

There have been more than a half-dozen of these debates across the state and Nunn has yet to appear on the same stage with what Robinson jokingly called the "road team."

And there is good reason, Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, has raised more than $2.4 million since the start of the year and is believed to be positioning herself for a serious run against the Republican in November for the seat being vacated by Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

A week ago, Nunn was in Columbus for a campaign appearance at the Whitewater Express store less than a block from where the debate was held. Nunn was invited to the Columbus debate about three months ago, and her staff declined about a month ago, citing a scheduling conflict, organizers said.

During the debate, Miles said it was "egregious" that Nunn was not engaging the others in debate. After the debate, Miles was even more pointed in her criticism of Nunn's tactic.

"She has not attended the last seven or eight forums," Miles said. "I have never seen anything like it. She is running like it is a coronation. And that is unfair to the citizens of Georgia."

Nunn is running like an incumbent, which is a text book political move, said Columbus State University political science professor Nicholas Easton.

"This is a standard political practice," Easton said. "When you are considerably ahead, you don't debate because you have nothing to gain and everything to lose."

Nunn's decision is not without complications, including the potential of angering Columbus Democrats by not showing up, Easton said.

"By doing this, did she risk the opportunity of getting more exposure in the Columbus market?" he asked. "There is no doubt she is playing it by the book. And that is exactly what you say if you are in her position."

That still did not sit well with the other three candidates, especially Radulovacki, who has been called the "Waffle House candidate," because no crowd is too small for him.

"What she is practicing is conventional political wisdom if you are the perceived leader," Radulovacki said. "That does not allow the voters to see her and hear her. It is politics over people -- and politics over the process. But I understand why."

So does Robinson.

"She is depriving the voters a chance to touch her and ask her questions," he said. "Politics is personal, and she is taking the personal aspect out of it."

Miles said she understood Nunn would be participating in an upcoming Georgia Public Television debate.

The three candidates who did debate agreed on almost everything Wednesday night from protecting the Affordable Care Act to being proactive in support of the military, including Fort Benning.

Perhaps the best line of the night came from Radulovacki when the candidates were asked how they would solve the gridlock in Washington.

"I am a psychiatrist," Radulovacki said. "I can work with Republicans and Democrats."

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service