Rich Jimmerson, independent candidate against Republican nominee Tony Buffington for the Blue Ridge district Loudoun board seat, debated an empty chair last night, as Buffington didn’t show up for the League of Women Voters debate in Leesburg. Karen Jimmerson (Rich’s wife) reports that Buffington never even responded to the invitation.
This is not a good moment for Tony Buffington.
The League is the gold-standard for debates. Locally, it has a reputation for being mildly right of center, but I have never heard them accused of being partisan in their debates. I have done two League debates, and was perfectly fairly treated, both times. There is simply no excuse for not responding and, absent an extreme circumstance, no excuse for not appearing.
My first debate was scheduled to be against then-supervisor Steve Snow. He had said he would come, but changed his mind and didn’t. My second was against Del. Tom Rust. The second one was easy. Debating an empty chair, however, is hard. That’s because you are either listening to a question or speaking an answer at all times. When your opponent shows up, you get to think about your answer more, while your opponent is speaking. Also, rebutting your opponent is often easier than just thinking up your own answers all the time. Everyone told me that it was the defining moment in that race, and I won largely because he wasn’t there (in all humility, people like Mark Herring also told me I looked pretty good). So, this is all to the best for Rich. But don’t anyone think he had it easy. It’s much harder to carry the whole thing on your own, than it is to switch off of your opponent.