Everett voters deserve a mayoral debate

There’s a lot on the line for Everett voters on Nov. 5, when Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. faces off against challenger Robert Van Campen. For the first time in Everett’s history, the winner of the mayoral contest will serve a four-year term. Once sworn in, the next mayor must be ready to oversee the heady promise of new jobs and tax revenue from a $1 billion resort casino proposed by Steve Wynn — or the fallout if Wynn does not get the license he seeks from the state.

DeMaria is a six-year incumbent who negotiated Everett’s host agreement with Wynn. Van Campen is a lawyer who has served as an Everett alderman for 12 years. Voters deserve a chance to hear from them in a face-to-face showdown. But so far, the two mayoral candidates have been unable to agree on the terms of a debate. Each side blames the other for the impasse, but the greater reluctance appears to come from the incumbent’s side. Jim Spencer, a spokesman for DeMaria, said the mayor wants to be judged “on his record, not on his debating skills.”

That’s fair enough. But given the big issues in this race — especially the need for the small city to prepare for a possible onslaught of traffic, visitors, cash, and political pressures — it’s necessary that the candidates debate the issues in public. DeMaria should agree to an open forum at which candidates receive questions from an impartial moderator or panel. If his policies are right, the voters will forgive any verbal stumbling.