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Voters deserve debate

Once again, The Day is planning to offer a series of debates across southeastern Connecticut to give the public a chance to hear candidates for state House and Senate offices discuss the issues. Joining us as co-sponsor is the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Assisting in making the debates possible is the League of Women Voters of Southeastern Connecticut.

Debate listings will be available in The Day and on theday.com. Readers can help us formulae questions for the candidates by emailing to elections@theday.com. Those attending the events, which will all begin at 7 p.m., will have the chance to submit questions in writing. While not every question can be asked during an hour-long debate, reader input will help us determine which issues are most important to local voters.

The Day will record the debates and make them available on theday.com. The debates will also help inform our endorsements.

The chamber and Day had planned a dozen debates at nine locations, a significant undertaking. Unfortunately, not all the candidates accepted our invitation and, in one case, it appears a candidate will be physically unable to take part. Sen. Andrew Maynard, because of his recent severe head injury, will likely not debate Republican challenger Kevin Trejo in the 18th Senate District.

Among those declining was Rep. Ernest Hewett, the Democrat seeking a sixth term in New London's 39th House District. He faces Republican Andrew R. Lockwood Sr., who has run several times for various offices, unsuccessfully, including against Rep. Hewett in 2010.

We find Rep. Hewett's stated reason for not participating more of an excuse than an explanation. Mr. Lockwood is not the endorsed candidate of the Republican Town Committee and so, apparently, not deserving of the opportunity to debate the issues with the incumbent, or so Rep. Hewett contends. Mr. Lockwood petitioned his way on to the ballot.

Rep. Hewett - an overwhelming favorite - has an opponent and should not duck him. Voters deserve to hear the issues discussed and debated. We urge the lawmaker to reconsider.

Also saying he will pass on the debate is Republican Elbert M. Burr, who seeks to unseat incumbent Democrat Rep. Ed Jutila in the 37th House District, encompassing East Lyme and Salem. Mr. Burr told us his schedule does not accommodate a debate. He is running for office and needs to make the time.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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