Nebraskans Won’t be Seeing Pillen Debate, Governor Hopeful Calls it ‘Theater’

Aug. 17, 2022, 3 p.m. ·

Carol Blood and Jim Pillen headshots
State senator Carol Blood and University of Nebraska regent Jim Pillen are competing to be Nebraska's next governor. (Courtesy photos)

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Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen will not debate before the election, according to his campaign.

Pillen’s decision could make him the first governor since at least the 1970s that does not debate, as the Nebraska Examiner first reported.

“Jim has gone out and answered voters' questions, talked to them, shared his vision directly,” said senior advisor Matthew Trail. “He's done that more than any other candidate. He's been the most accessible gubernatorial candidate in Nebraska's history.”

Trail said the Republican’s strategy to avoid debates was decided “day one.”

Pillen’s campaign boasts 500 campaign stops in all 93 continues. Trail said Pillen attended five candidate forums, more casual question-and-answer settings, including one with his Democratic opponent, Carol Blood, hosted by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce in February.

“The people who care about debates are political insiders and members of the media,” Trail said. “And Jim is not running a popularity contest with members of the media or with political insiders.”

Blood said she’s disappointed for Nebraskans that Pillen won’t debate.

“I think that my opponent's campaign statement, that debate is political theater, is very telling because to me political theater are the commercials that I saw during the primary," Blood said. "That's political theater about fear and misinformation.”

Blood said Pillen’s decision is a reflection of today’s political landscape – where, she said, campaigns tell people not what to vote for, but what and who to vote against.

The decision not to debate has been a consistent theme for Pillen.

Pillen declined a debate invitation from NTV, a central Nebraska TV station, and the Nebraska State Fair announced it would not host its traditional debate, according to the Examiner. The University of Nebraska regent from Columbus also declined primary debates this spring, including Nebraska Public Media’s.

“I don't really think it's a strategy to not debate,” Blood said. “I think what it is is a realization, that if you spend millions of dollars in Nebraska, that you can pretty much buy your way into office.”