97% in poll want Villaraigosa to debate, but he still refuses

The question I put to readers last week was clear and direct:

Should Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa debate his most prominent challenger, attorney Walter Moore?

The response was swift and one-sided.

Yes: 4,728

No: 118

No opinion: 26

This, my friends, is known as a landslide.

"I'm all for a debate between Villaraigosa and any other candidates," a reader named Brian wrote in a typical e-mail. "Maybe we'll end up with a mayor who has failed the California Bar Exam fewer than 4 times. There are too many pressing issues facing L.A. to be complacent about this contest, and the current mayor is far too narcissistic and interested in politics for its own sake to be a true agent of change."

Leslie and Marion had this to say in a joint e-mail:

"We may not vote for either one of them, but the debate forum is essential to our democracy, local and national . . . Please pass our views along to the Powers That Be."

There was even an offer from Telemundo, KVEA-TV Channel 52, to host the debate with me as the moderator.

Things were really falling into place, and so I called Villaraigosa's handlers with the news. Sure, they'd said no to a debate the last time I brought it up, but now that the people had spoken, how could they refuse?

My call to City Hall was bounced over to Ace Smith, the mayor's campaign guy.

And the verdict?

"We're not going to change our minds," Smith insisted without any hint of flexibility.

Wait a minute. Had Smith seen our poll?

Yes, he said, but he questioned its validity.

"If you ask the question, 'Do you like ice cream,' everyone is going to say 'yes.' If you ask, 'Do you like ice cream with sand in it,' you get a different answer."

How much is Villaraigosa paying this guy?


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