Editor's note: The following editorial ran in the Oct. 4 edition of the Tyler Courier Times-Telegraph. It is reprinted here with permission.
We believe a tradition long held by political candidates and Texas newspapers has been abandoned in what we can only believe to be a decision of political expediency.
Your position to not visit with the editorial boards of Texas newspapers may be astute politically, but it demonstrates a disregard for newspaper readers and voters across the state, who deserve to hear substance rather than silence.
It is therefore with the greatest concern that we offer not only an editorial board meeting with us, but also an opportunity for a face-to-face debate between you and your opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White, for the purposes of illustrating to Texas voters your positions on key issues.
We are facing what's rumored to be the largest budget deficit and crisis in the history of our state - informed estimates of the budget shortfall range from $18 billion to $20 billion. Newspaper readers, whether Republicans, Democrats or Independents - deserve to hear your solutions to the staggering problems we will be facing as the legislative session begins.
Instead, we're confronted with an unacceptable and undeserved silence.
This newspaper, which you have repeatedly called "your favorite paper in the state," has given you support in previous elections in the form of endorsements.
(To be sure, we have taken editorial positions against some of your actions, such as your executive order on the HPV vaccine in 2007.)
You also have characterized this as one of the most conservative newspapers in the state. We guarantee a level playing field.
So we appeal to you to come to Tyler, visit with our editorial board, and to debate Bill White.
No doubt, you have advisers who are counseling against this. Perhaps they point to the polls that show your comfortable lead over White. You're probably being told you don't need to do editorial boards because the results would be predictable, with many of the state's newspapers endorsing your opponent, as they did in the primary.
That's bad advice. It demonstrates a disconnect with the voters. Obviously, editorial board meetings in the past have not prevented you from being elected to office. You've never lost a race. Nor have debates hurt you politically. Even in a three-way primary in March, you won without a runoff, and you debated your opponents then.
The stakes are too high for politics to overshadow process. We invite you to re-engage with the many voters who rely on us for in-depth dialogue about the issues, rather than sound bites other media offer.
This newspaper did not endorse a candidate in the March Republican primary because only one of those candidates, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, met with our board. We felt the process was incomplete. And it remains incomplete in this general election.
The advice you are receiving is perhaps from those who would have you run for another, higher office. But abandoning the traditions of editorial boards and debates is an affront to the voters you are asking to keep you in this office.
We are deeply disappointed in where things are. We urge you to accept our offer in the spirit in which is it extended, with sincerity and a respect for the traditional relationships between Texas public officials, the press and the public.
Signed by the editorial board and newsroom leadership of the Tyler Courier Times-Telegraph: Nelson Clyde, Publisher; Dave Berry, Editor; Brian Pearson, Managing Editor; Danny Mogle, Managing Editor; Richard Loomis, Senior Editor; Roy Maynard, Editorial Page Editor; Megan Middleton, City Editor.