Buono Campaign Manager Says Oct. 15 Isn’t a Good Date for Gubernatorial Debate

A fight over the second of two gubernatorial debates has emerged with the Barbara Buono campaign objecting to a debate Oct. 15 at Montclair State University because it is one day before the special U.S. Senate election. While Buono Campaign Manager Jonathan Ducote told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider the campaign isn’t planning to sue to get the date changed, officials have sent a letter to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) asking to help find a date that is after the special election.

Ducote said Buono would be happy to debate Gov. Chris Christie any time between Oct. 17 and Oct. 25, which is the last date under New Jersey law when a debate can occur. The campaign has agreed to a gubernatorial debate Oct. 8 at William Paterson University and a lieutenant governor debate Oct. 11 at Kean University.

According to Ducote, the campaign found out Saturday from Montclair State University officials that the debate at the school would be Oct. 15 instead of the other discussed date of Oct. 22 because it was best for their production facilities.

Christie issued a statement this morning saying he had eagerly accepted the debate dates. But Ducote said Oct. 15 isn’t the best day to hold the event. “These debates should be happening when the most number of people can watch them, with the largest amount of the electorate tuned in and we believe that doing that the day before a special election does not give that opportunity,” he said.

He said Montclair State officials told the campaign that Oct. 22 — the other offered date — wasn’t acceptable to Christie.

When asked if Buono will appear if Oct. 15 is the only date the university offers, Ducote said, “We’ve asked ELEC to instruct Montclair State to take it to the 22nd or to find another location where it could happen after the 16th election.”

Ducote said campaign officials made it clear to Montclair State that they wanted the debate to happen after the special election. “We had been very transparent about the dates that we wanted and as a matter of principle from our campaign, we really do feel that it’s in the best interest of the electorate with regards to the total gubernatorial race to do all the debates after the special election on the 16th,” he said. “Obviously we understand we do this in partnership with television, with facilities, happy to do one before the special election. We’d really like to do one after the special election. Doing one the day before the special U.S. Senate election doesn’t seem it’s going to engage the most number of viewers or the electorate.”

After Christie released his statement, Ducote said, “We told Montclair State University today that the 15th was not a date that we thought was appropriate. And we didn’t think it was good for Montclair State, we didn’t think it was good for the electorate and we definitely didn’t think it was good for engaging the largest swath of viewership.”

While Ducote said he hasn’t received a new date from the university yet, he said, “We’ve been very clear about our position today.”