Since Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont decided he wasn’t going to debate party-endorsed rival Dan Malloy, he has had to weather criticism from just about all quarters. Now, he faces the fact that WFSB-TV (Channel 3) and its partners plan to go ahead with an hour of commercial TV as well as public TV and radio dedicated to the race for the Democratic nomination for governor whether Lamont participates or not.

As The Shad was first to report last night, Channel 3 confirmed that the Democratic “debate” will be broadcast August 3rd on Channel 3 and WNPR radio at 3 p.m. The debate will be rebroadcast at 7 p.m. on Eyewitness News NOW. Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) and WNPR radio will rebroadcast the debate at 8 p.m.

Both Channel 3 and the Malloy campaign say they are holding out hope Lamont changes his mind. “This is a close race that’s getting closer by the day. There are major differences between the candidates – in their backgrounds, values, experience, records, and positions on key issues,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s campaign strategist. “Democrats have a real choice to make, and the best way to be able to make that choice is to size the candidates up, side by side. It is unprecedented that there would be no televised debates between two major party candidates for Governor in the closing weeks of a close race. It’s never happened,” he said.

The Lamont campaign failed to respond to a request for comment.

The TV station posted on their website a solicitation of questions from the public for the debates. It raised the question: What if Lamont still refuses to debate? Will the news outlets move forward with questions to Malloy alone? The answer is yes.

It’s one thing to get hammered for dodging further debates. It’s another when a candidate wants to avoid a side-by-side comparison to the point that he’d give a free, non-contested hour to your opponent. If Lamont sticks by his decision to skip this forum, it could be the worst in a series of very bad campaign decisions and possibly the turning point in the race.

The Republican candidates—Mike Fedele, Tom Foley and Oz Griebel—all agreed to debate on Aug. 4. The debate will be broadcast on Channel 3 and WNPR at 3 p.m. The debate will be rebroadcast on Eyewitness News NOW at 7 p.m. CPTV and WNPR will rebroadcast the debate at 8 p.m.

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