BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Since the first time two presidential nominees took the stage in front of a national TV audience, debates have been a staple in American politics.

“If someone is wanting to represent a constituency, they should be able to talk about those issues beside their opponent and really juxtapose their two positions,” Democratic analyst Neel Sannappa said.

This election year, we’ve seen candidates in some of the nation’s most high-profile races take the podiums, such as Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R) in Georgia’s Senate race. Yet, later, Walker did not show up to a different debate. Democratic candidate for Governor of Arizona, Katie Hobbs, has declined to debate her opponent, Kari Lake (R) entirely.

In Kern, we’ve seen it first-hand.

“Californians in general are seeing this,” GOP candidate running for the 16th State Senate District, David Shepard said, pointing to the empty podium for his Democratic opponent next to him.

Over the last two weeks, Democratic candidates Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) running in the 22nd Congressional District and Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) running in the 16th State Senate District, dropped out of our debates in the eleventh hour, citing attack ads and leaving their GOP opponents, David Valadao (R-Hanford) and Shepard, on the debate stage next to an empty podium.

Another Democratic candidate declined our debate invitation all-together, Leticia Perez (D), running for the 35th State Assembly District.

“At the end of the day, politics is is very much a game of numbers,” Sannappa said.

Sannappa explained debate decisions are often about political calculation, with campaigns maneuvering behind closed doors, deciding if the candidate has more to win or lose from facing their opponent on stage.

“If the polling is indicating that you’re doing very well, sometimes folks will advise you and sometimes candidates will feel themselves that they don’t need to put themselves out there,” Sannappa said.

Republican analyst Cathy Abernathy agrees it’s often consultants or strategists advising the candidates not to debate, but argues that should send a message.

“That should tell the voters something: why can’t we see this person without the cover of a PR company designing their ads?” Abernathy said.