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Debate over debates only debate candidates for Michigan attorney general are having

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The two major partycandidates for Michigan attorney general are debating over why they have not had any debates. 

There have been debates proposed between Democrat Dana Nesseland Republican Tom Leonard. But they have fallen through because of who else was invited to share the stage.

Nessel says she objects to Leonard’s campaign’s insistence on including independent candidate Chris Graveline.

Graveline’s unconventional inclusion into the debate over who gets to debate is just the latest step in the unconventional path his candidacy has followed. The former federal prosecutor failed to collect enough signatures to get on the November ballot. But a judge granted him an injunction to be placed on the ballot.   

Polls have shown Nessel leading Leonard among likely Michigan voters, with Graveline and other third party getting support from less than 5% of voters combined.

That’s why Nessel says only she and Leonard should debate. 

“The way I’ve seen debates traditionally done, if you’re not polling at a certain level, you’re not considered viable… and you’re just taking up the oxygen,” says Nessel. “In a debate… we should be hearing from people who actually have a chance of being seated in that office.”

A Leonard campaign spokesman accuses Nessel of “playing games” ahead of next month’s election.

“Dana Nessel had an opportunity to debate, and she agreed to appear with her opponents Chris Graveline and Tom Leonard in Macomb at the beginning of the month. Then she had a change of heart and backed out of an already scheduled event,” says Gideon D'Assandro, Leonard campaign spokesman.

D'Assandro says two other third party candidates were invited to the debate sponsored by the Macomb Bar Association, but did not respond.

It will be up to Michigan voters to respond in November when they choose Michigan’s next attorney general.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.