Rep. Ed Towns is dodging Kevin Powell, refusing to share a stage with his upstart congressional opponent — and even turning down The Brooklyn Paper’s offer to host a debate on neutral territory, our DUMBO offices!
The 13-term incumbent has said he will skip this afternoon’s scheduled New York 1 debate against Powell, the former hip-hop writer and reality TV star.
And he has not responded to Powell’s calls for five debates throughout the 10th Congressional District, which covers Fort Greene, DUMBO, Downtown and parts of Brooklyn Heights.
“Any time and any place,” Powell wrote in an open letter to Towns on the Huffington Post last month.
Powell later told The Brooklyn Paper that Towns’s refusal to publicly discuss the issues and defend his record is an affront to the American electoral process.
“Mr. Towns does not believe in democracy,” Powell said. “He does not want to be held accountable for his record over the past 25 years.”
Powell said that if he could confront Towns directly, he would specifically ask him about “failing schools,” his initial support for the invasion of Iraq, his support for a free trade agreement with Central America, nearly 1,000 missed votes since 1993, and contributions he has received from political action committees, which make up 60 percent of Towns contributors, campaign finance records show.
The 74-year-old political veteran said he has sidestepped a debate because he doesn’t want to take part in a shouting match.
“It’s certainly not because we’re scared, or the congressman is scared,” said Towns’s spokeswoman Lupe Todd. “If Powell wants to talk about ways to improve the district, that’s one thing, but if he’s calling on a debate simply to stand up and pontificate, than we’re not interested.
“We will debate,” Todd added, “but we will not have a back and forth with him about his false allegations about the congressman.”
Experts say Towns has a good reason for avoiding a debate against a newcomer who has less money, less name recognition and less of a record. The reason? Keeping the race as quiet as possible.
“Towns wants to make sure that no one pays much attention to this race,” said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. “If he and his opponent are on the same stage, he’ll have to answer questions about his record. If they aren’t, he can control the discussion.”
Powell isn’t the only one whose requests for a debate have been turned down by Towns.
The incumbent backed out of the Aug. 21 NY1 debate and denied The Brooklyn Paper’s request to a debate Powell — a longstanding part of The Paper’s editorial endorsement process.
Instead, Towns and Powell will meet with The Brooklyn Paper separately on Aug. 22.
“We think that every candidate should have a chance to sit down with the editorial board — alone,” Todd said. “It’s a time for a one-on-one conversation with the candidate. When you sit down with an editorial board, you don’t want to be in debate mode.”
Check www.brooklynpaper.com next week for coverage of the candidates’ Aug. 22 visits to our DUMBO newsroom.