Friday, October 24, 2008

A few tidbits from the Bramble/Hatfield debate on Oct. 23rd

John and Sue Curtis kindly hosted a debate for both their State House and State Senate districts last night. I don’t live in those districts, but was able to attend for much of the evening.

I estimate that there were close to 100 people at the Curtis’ home last night. Senator Bramble and RaDene Hatfield debated in a large space downstairs while Representative Herrod and Claralyn Hill simultaneously debated in a large family room upstairs. There was a brief interval around 7:45 so people could switch places and view the other pair of candidates if they wished.

I think I can sum up the night in four general points.

1. Both John and Sue Curtis were gracious and informed debate moderators. They were well-spoken and moderated the debate firmly, but kindly, quickly cutting off any comments about the opposing candidate while allowing ample time for the candidates to express their views. The first question was “What is the one trait of your opponent’s that you admire most?” There were other creative and topical questions, and very specific ones about policy, including the presidential favorite: “If the economic downturn worsens, what will you cut?” (Sen. Bramble was the only one of the four who gave anything resembling a specific answer to that question.)

2. Incumbent candidates enjoy a huge advantage in debates because of their experience. They have almost certainly discussed the nuts and bolts more often than their opponents and just know more about most state issues that have been discussed at the legislature. Both Herrod and Bramble were able to be more specific about programs, laws, and statistics, and it frankly makes them look very credible. I temper that with the thought that their opponents would probably look equally informed after a couple years as part of the legislature, and knowledge does not always equal wisdom or good judgment. Herrod had some stats, was still very vague in places, but was more specific than Hill; Bramble was just head-and-shoulders more specific than Hatfield. He is a skilled orator—either “polished” or “slick” depending on the spin you want to put on it.

3. Bramble and Hatfield really don’t like each other.

4. The fourth point is just the story of a weird, tense moment and a request for information. I was in the basement waiting for the Bramble/Hatfield discussion to begin when the subject of filming the event came up. One organizer said they would welcome that, but just hadn’t been able to arrange for everything. Minutes later, a serious-looking young man with a camera and tripod came down accompanied by Sue Curtis. I think that KBYU was mentioned. He set up near the front while the crowd filtered into the room—including a large contingent of Brambles in the back, and eventually John Curtis began speaking about why they were hosting the event and how he was going to moderate the time. As part of these opening remarks, Curtis spoke of others trying to shape the event to fit other agendas, but did not elaborate.

Another man then arrived also holding a camera and tripod. He was corralled in the entrance way by Suzy Bramble and a tense discussion lasted for a couple of minutes. Mrs. Bramble eventually walked to the front and whispered in John Curtis’ ear. The man then attempted to enter the room and was physically blocked by one of Bramble’s adult sons. The man tried to get around him, but the son moved to prevent the man from stepping forward. The Bramble son was tense and honestly looked to me like he was about to deck the man. An angry, whispered argument took place, but I only heard the man say something like “After what she said to me?!” Curtis told the crowd something to the effect that one of those outside agendas had arrived and excused himself. He spoke briefly with the camera-toting man, and they both quietly went back upstairs. I didn’t see the man later when we went up to see Herrod and Hill.

Does anyone who reads this blog know anything about who the man was and why he wasn’t allowed to attend, or at least film the debate? I was racking my brain, but I really have no idea. I just am not up on the ins and outs of local political spats unless it gets in the paper or the blogs. My only vastly speculative guess would be that maybe it had to do with Fred Desposorio possibly wanting to participate…or something… As I said, I know nothing of Desposorio besides the recent primary results and what I skimmed on his website. I was just trying to brainstorm a plausible explanation for the confrontation.

Anyway, I really enjoy going to watch candidates speak in person because you get a sense of how they interact with others, especially those who disagree with them. That will play a huge factor in how they later communicate with their constituents and other legislators.

Education funding was debated a great deal by both sets of candidates, and Rep. Herrod gave the answer I enjoyed the most of the evening. It was a question on creative ways to find more funding for schools, and he answered that he honestly didn’t know the best solution to the complicated problem. He explained that education funding was one of the reasons he supported the development of oil shale and energy—they provide more and more funding to the school trustlands fund as more and more land is profitably leased. I am personally very skeptical of the claims of riches and cheap fuel quickly emerging from the shale considering the state of extraction technology, but school needs push me to accept the prospect of increased exploration and development if it maximizes available funding to help our schools. It is a pragmatic approach with multiple benefits to offset possible environmental negatives.


Anonymous said...

I don't know anything other than it was Mike Ridgeway, a Republican whose sworn enemy is Curt Bramble. I thought the funniest comment from the night was when Bramble said he didn' know what lobbyists gifts are. I almost laughed out loud when I heard that one because he consistently is one of the legislators who accepts the most gifts.

Provo Voter said...

Interesting. Personally I was not impressed with Bramble. Yeah, he could spit out numbers but he sounded like a computer. No passion, or even coherance for what was behind the numbers. It seemed like he was spouting them for no other reason than he impressed himself everytime he did. On the other hand, I thought RaDene was very compelling and connected well with the audience. My favorite moment occurred when she asked the audience to raise their hands if they were satisfied with Utah education. Then if they thought teachers made enough money. Then if they would work for an educators salary. The lack of hands raised really refuted Bramble's spewing of numbers of the increases in funding they have recently passed. My other favorite moment occurred when after Bramble mentioned all they stake holders he would bring together to talk to about health care, RaDene pointed out that not mentioned as someone he would bring together and talk to about the subject was the people. Brambles mouth dropped and he looked panicked because he knew she was right.

UtahTeacher said...

Interesting indeed! So that was the infamous Mike Ridgeway. Now the tension makes sense. With a website name like his, I can see why the Brambles don't love the guy.

Provo Voter,
I agree with you to a point. I also strongly disagree with Bramble on many issues and his characterization of education funding. I think the entire Republican campaign push this year about their support for education because they increased funding during the top surplus years in the history of the state is misleading, especially when considering the less publicized bills wasting education money and the constant comments disparaging teachers and excusing vouchers.

BUT...I would have loved if Hatfield had been able to better articulate some of those differences. I'm a facts and figures guy mainly, and she mainly appealed to "getting along." Ethics reform is something I feel strongly about, but I think you need some substance to back up that one strong issue. Don't get me wrong, I would totally vote for her if I could, and the point I tried to make in my post was that I think she would sound more substantive, as well as nice, after a couple sessions of intense study under her belt.

Anonymous said...

The name of Ridgway's old website indeed sounds shocking, though if put in context, it makes a LITTLE better sense.
Ridgway's blog started last spring, shortly after a law was passed, which was sponsored by BRAMBLE. HB 493 Stalking Amendments. The law drastically broadened what could be deemed as stalking, such that harsh political criticism about someone on a website could fall under the law (except for a constitutional challenge).
One Republican insider, shortly after it passed, called it the "Michael Ridgway law." That same Republican insider used a bogus stalking injunction against Ridgway in an effort to keep him from attending Republican events.
Had the judge made findings of fact, the Utah Supreme Court probably would have struck the injunction down, but instead remanded it back to the judge to make those findings. Eight months later and numerous problems for Ridgway later, the judge has still not made the findings, and the injunction is still in place.
Read the Supreme Court case; it's informative to say the least (especially when you know what the documents and e-mails cited REALLY said).
Then read this letter that Bramble was copied on 8 days before the injunction was ever filed:

Anonymous said...

The stalking injunction brought against Ridgway was brought under the old law, and the Supreme Court opinion was made under the old law.
Given the facts presented, the Supreme Court would probably strike the injunciton down under the old law, but when you read the changes that have recently been made by the NEW law (sponsored by Bramble), a case with similar facts would now be UPHELD (except for a constitutional challenge).

Ridgway v. Jarvis, Bramble, Towner, et al said...

I would be grateful if anyone who was in attendance at the debate last night would be so kind as to make contact with me, especially any who saw the interchange between me, Susie Bramble, and the Brambles' two teenage sons.

Phone contact is preferred at this point. My number is 801-438-4139.

I would also be happy to answer any questions from any who are unclear as to what my "agenda" is.

Gratuitous smear and cheap shots from anonymous posters, on the other hand will be viewed with contempt.

Mike Ridgway

Cameron said...

"Incumbent candidates enjoy a huge advantage in debates because of their experience."

I watched a debate with Rob Bishop last week and had the same thought. He seemed so much more polished, comfortable, and confident than his opponent.

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Hello readers, I am John Curtis and with my wife, Sue we hosted the debate last week. Sue and I had worked hard to create an atmosphere of fairness to the candidates but more importantly we wanted a discussion centered on issues. Leading up to the debate we felt pressure from a number of people who had agendas to make a candidate look good or bad based on biased questions or other aspects of the evening. This is why we did not allow questions from the audience and why I asked Mike not to film the event. He clearly had an agenda and it was not based on a discussion of issues. I had never met Mike and I know very little about him. I had a very short period of time to deal with him but it was my impression at the time that he wanted to make a disturbance and that he wanted to be kicked out of my home. I couldn't allow him to make a disturbance but I was obliged to assist him on his desire be to asked to leave my home. I believe we all have methods we use to impact the political process. Mike's may be valid but it was not his home and not his evening.

Sue and I applauded all four of the candidates for running and we know first hand the difficulty of staging a meaningful campaign.