Many Winthrop residents will be watching Monday night’s debate between Town Council President Jeff Turco and candidate Peter Gill either live on WCAT or on the replays of the debate that will be aired afterwards on the Winthrop cable channel. Some long-time observers are calling the debate one of the most important local political events in recent memory. If you’ve traveled throughout the town and seen the large number of house signs and people holding signs, you can sense the intense interest in the Council President’s election.
The participation by so many residents in the political process and the incredible interest in Monday’s debate affirms what we’ve known for a long time: the residents of this town follow the goings-on at Town Hall closely and care deeply about every issue that comes before the Town Council.
Could the debate be a turning point in the election? Could either candidate persuade some of the undecided voters that their vision of the future is what is better for the town?
If we can bring in a sports analogy, the debate shapes up like a heavyweight championship fight. The managers and supporters can help prepare a candidate for the debate, but when a candidate enters the ring, so to speak, he is in there alone, matching his knowledge, skills, and wisdom against his opponent.
Throughout our history, debates have mattered greatly in the shaping of our nation, from the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1958 to the Kennedy-Nixon televised debates in the 1960 presidential campaign to the Republican Party debates being held today.
One of the ironies of such debates however, is that often it matters less about what a candidate says than how he says it or how he looks. A poll of those who listened to the Nixon/Kennedy debate on the radio thought that Nixon had won. However, those watching on TV clearly thought that Kennedy, who was calmer, handsomer, and clean-shaven, had won. So we urge our fellow residents who tune in Monday night to pay close attention to the substance of what the candidates have to say, rather than to their delivery, appearance, and so forth.
Regardless of the outcome of the debate or the election, one thing that is clear is that the real winners will be the voters of Winthrop, who will have the choice of two competing visions of the future direction of our town government from two candidates who care deeply about our community.