Photo by Brian LeBlanc
Ron Bemis signs have been cropping up all over the 7th Congressional District.

21st Century Viking: Why McDermott Must Debate Bemis

By Brian LeBlanc

There are some races in the upcoming election on November 6th that no one seems to be talking about. The 7th Congressional District race between 11-term incumbent Congressman Jim McDermott (D) and his challenger, Republican Ron Bemis (, is one of them.

McDermott refuses to have a formal debate with Bemis. Why are the citizens of the 7th Congressional District (CD) not being given a chance to hear their candidates debate? More importantly, why are we letting our Representative in Congress get away with this?

The 7th CD is considered to be one of the safest Democratic districts in the entire country. Jim McDermott has been elected to Congress 11 times, and in each election since 1988 has received no less than 70 percent of the vote. It is widely assumed that this pattern will continue to hold and that McDermott will be re-elected, so most media outlets are not giving this race the attention it deserves.

I have seen Ron Bemis signs popping up all over Ballard and the 7th CD. In fact, I can’t remember the last time that any of McDermott’s competitors ran a campaign of this size and credibility. His campaign focuses on his claims that McDermott has been an ineffective and highly partisan Congressman whose votes have contributed to the raising of the national debt.

While McDermott and Bemis have appeared together at events in Capitol Hill in September, Edmonds in October ( and as guests on KUOW’s “Weekday” program (, they have not held a formal one-on-one debate. According to his campaign website (, McDermott has no more events scheduled before Election Day.

McDermott’s seeming contempt of the process is a perfect example of what is wrong with politics in 2012. Every politician, regardless of party, should have to actually earn the votes of their constituents. These safe, gerrymandered districts that are safely in one party camp or another -- such as the 7th CD and the 36th Legislative District -- are the epicenters of the atrophy which is plaguing the political process on every level.

Voters of the 7th CD, McDermott thinks you’re going to vote for him no matter what he does. If you do vote for him, before you “mail it in,” I want you to ask yourself a couple of things:

What has Jim McDermott done lately to earn your vote? What legislation has he submitted, sponsored, supported and voted for over the last 2 years that you agree with?

What is Ron Bemis saying? Does Bemis’ experience and positions on the issues seem like they would make a better alternative?

I'm not trying to convince you to vote for Bemis. I am merely saying that no candidate should be elected merely because they have a particular letter after their name. Every candidate has agreed, by virtue of running for elected office, to submit themselves, their beliefs and their voting record to rigorous analysis by the voters.

Having an elected official, regardless of which party they support, refuse to formally debate their opponent during a campaign speaks volumes about their contempt of the political process. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it requires us to be more engaged citizens and start to hold all of our politicians -- regardless of political affiliation -- accountable.

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