Fireworks at Debate in Enfield

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Green Party candidate Scott Deshefy joined Sean Sullivan and Rep. Joe Courtney in what was at times a pretty contentious debate in Enfield tonight. Sullivan continued to attack Courtney for being too partisan, a theme he has been returning to again and again in previous debates. Courtney, for his part, defended his record, and did not attack Sullivan more than a handful of times.

Listen here to Courtney and Sullivan spar over the economy:

http://share.ovi.com/flash/audioplayer.aspx?media=jeenaone.10001&channelname=jeenaone.public

Listen to them again find disagreement over Iraq. This I thought was one of Courtney’s better answers, but Sullivan’s response, while certainly it oversimplifies the situation in Iraq, is a funny comeback:

http://share.ovi.com/flash/audioplayer.aspx?media=jeenaone.10002&channelname=jeenaone.public

And that was the story of the night. Courtney did not really find his rhythm for most of the debate, although he did give some good answers on education and foreign policy. Sullivan, on the other hand, was energetic, engaging and constantly on the attack.

Here are the two of them on energy policy, specifically in response to a question about home heating costs, something which came up at least a few other times during the debate:

http://share.ovi.com/flash/audioplayer.aspx?media=jeenaone.10003&channelname=jeenaone.public

The exchange of the night belonged to Green Party candidate G. Scott Deshefy (whose name the moderator kept getting wrong), who shared perhaps a little too much information in response to a question about sex ed. Joe Courtney responds with “Wow.” You can also hear me laughing like an idiot in this clip, so it’s worth listening to just for that.

http://share.ovi.com/flash/audioplayer.aspx?media=jeenaone.10004&channelname=jeenaone.public

At the end, you can hear Defeshy say that this is why the Green Party should be invited to more debates. He was actually a very interesting and engaging candidate, although I think a lot of his ideas were too far to the left of most in the audience for him to get any boost from debating.

Reflections

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Courtney came across as far more knowledgeable on policy, although his answers were halting, and his voice seemed to be going a little. I remember him being more animated at a debate with Rob Simmons last year. He provided a good, if not great, defense of his record, although admittedly it’s difficult to defend the accomplishments a Congress that has few of them, and that no one seems to like very much. I thought his answers on foreign policy were perhaps his best, although he did well in bringing up the jobs he’s been able to help create in the region at Electric Boat and here in Enfield. He often refrained from attacking Sullivan, even when there were opportunities to do so.

Sullivan had a lot of witty comebacks, and he obviously is good at debating and thinks well on his feet. However, he spent an awful lot of time attacking Courtney, attacking Congress, and attacking Washington in general, while often not providing more than generalities about what he would do in office (for instance, he talked about the need to reduce spending, but was not entirely specific about how he would go about doing this). He did score some points by talking about nuclear power, and he drew some clear contrasts with Courtney on energy policy, foreign intervention and education.

Defeshy was an interesting character who provided very different views from those of the major party candidates. Ultimately, although he did distract from the back and forth between Sullivan and Courtney, his presence at the debate was welcome and positive.

I’d have to give this debate to Sullivan, I think, if only because he was better at communicating his message, which mostly seemed to be that Joe Courtney is too partisan. However, that may backfire on him, as what people may take away from the debate is the sense that Sullivan is too negative, and attacked too often while Courtney did his best to stick to issues and policy.

Will it help Sullivan at all? Probably not. This is a very hard year to be a Republican candidate. However, if Sullivan can make a good impression now, maybe he’ll be back for a rematch in 2010.

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