About those debates | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 24, 2010

About those debates

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 2:29 PM

The Lincoln campaign sends word that there has been no progress made in setting up town hall-style debates with Rep. John Boozman. Boozman challenged Lincoln to a town hall meeting during their Sept. 10 debate. Lincoln accepted, saying she would participate if the campaigns could work something out. Lincoln later upped the ante, saying she would agree to a debate in each of the four congressional districts. Well it looks like she called his bluff. According to Lincoln's campaign, Boozman has "declined or failed to respond to several invitations offered to him by organizers proposing to host town halls according to his own guidelines." According to the release, Lincoln has accepted invitations for town halls in Jonesboro, Fayetteville, North Little Rock, Little Rock and El Dorado.

I spoke with Sarah Sanders, who manages Boozman's campaign, last weekend. She told me the debates were in a "holding pattern" and the two camps were just trying to firm up dates and locations. I asked Boozman's communications director for more specifics but never received word. My guess is there will be some more back and forth on this until the election is just a few weeks out and both campaigns will claim to be too busy. Release on the jump.

Boozman's Phony Town Hall Pledge

Congressman John Boozman clearly has no intention of following through with his phony town hall offer because since raising the idea in the September 10 debate, his campaign has declined or slow-walked every opportunity presented to him.

"Congressman Boozman has the time to raise money with Wall Street executives in New York and trumpet plans to benefit millionaires, but apparently doesn't have the time to stand alongside Senator Lincoln and answer questions from Arkansas voters in a town hall format," Lincoln campaign manager Steve Patterson said. "Being a U.S. Senator is hard work. If Congressman Boozman's campaign is any indication, he doesn't plan to work as hard as Senator Lincoln has worked for the people of Arkansas. She doesn't believe anyone is entitled to be a Senator. She wants to earn the privilege."

After declining at least seven invitations from non-partisan organizations to join Lincoln in a candidate forum or debate, Congressman Boozman used one of his questions during the September 10 Talk Business/Fox 16 debate to challenge her to an additional debate:

Congressman Boozman at Talk Business Debate September 10: "What I would like to do is if we're gonna do, if you'd like to do another debate, I would be glad to get in a forum where you've got a mic, I've got a mic, we'll sit down, no notes, no anything, we'll have the people of Arkansas there, we'll sit there, I've done many of these where we sit for three or four hours. And everybody comes who wants to make a comment or a question. I'll be glad to sit and debate an answer to you, and listen to them, if you'd like to do that."

But now Congressman Boozman is trying to weasel out of his own phony idea to stand before Arkansas voters. The five-term Congressman has declined or failed to respond to several invitations offered to him by organizers proposing to host town halls according to his own guidelines, while Lincoln has accepted these proposed town halls:

Jonesboro Town Hall, organized by the Jonesboro Sun, in collaboration with the Department of Political Science at Arkansas State University, ASU-TV and KASU radio-Boozman declined the invitation.

Fayetteville Town Hall, organized by the University of Arkansas Student Government Association-Boozman has offered no response.

North Little Rock Town Hall, organized by the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce-Boozman declined the invitation.

Little Rock Town Hall, organized by the Political Animals Club-Boozman has offered no response.

El Dorado Town Hall, organized by the El Dorado News-Times, Noalmark Broadcasting and the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce-Boozman declined the invitation.

News-Times columnist Shea Wilson writes in a September 19 column:
The El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, News-Times and Noalmark Broadcasting have been trying to get a candidate forum for the U.S. Senate candidates organized here in El Dorado since the end of July. The format would be a media panel asking questions submitted by local citizens.

On Aug. 11, I received a reply back from Boozman's scheduler that said, "I wish we had a date to give you ... unfortunately, the Congressman's schedule is totally booked."

The original date of Oct. 5 was unsuitable, so I had offered to let his campaign name a suitable date. At the time we had a commitment from Lincoln for the original date or an alternative one. The congressman was "totally booked."

So imagine my surprise on Sept. 10 when Boozman used one of his questions to challenge Lincoln to an additional debate, town-hall meeting or whatever you want to call it. Say what?

His campaign had already shot down the El Dorado offer and from what I understand, had declined several other non-partisan debate or forum opportunities where Lincoln had agreed to participate.

In light of his comments, I sent an e-mail to his scheduler and campaign communications guy again last week asking if he would consider doing something in El Dorado.

I got the following response from Sarah Huckabee, Boozman's campaign manager:
"Congressman Boozman requested Senator Lincoln join him for an open forum town hall not another debate. We committed to doing three debates - two that we have already participated in and the third taking place in October. We are not going to do any additional debates but Congressman Boozman will be back in El Dorado again before the election for other events."

Lincoln has accepted Boozman's town hall debate concept and suggested they hold one in each congressional district and even invite Green Party candidate John Gray and independent candidate Trevor Drown.

We'd love to have them here to field questions in whatever format they choose, but I'm starting feel like I'm trying to nail down JELL-O.

—30—

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