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Candidates seeking debates, but no luck

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As the calendar turns to September and campaign season ramps up, Congressional hopefuls are looking to challenge their incumbent opponents to debates.

This week, Democratic nominee for Ohio 4th Congressional District Janet Garrett issued a statement saying her opponent U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, has rejected all requests to debate the retired teacher.

Garrett said her campaign asked Jordan for five debates in different areas of the district, but Jordan continues to dodge her.

“How does a politician get to a point where they feel the most basic obligation to their constituents no longer applies to them?” Garrett said. “This is a clear example of how Washington is broken. He wants to be speaker of the House, yet he can’t come talk to the people he represents.”

A spokesman from Jordan’s campaign said Friday there will be a debate.

“That accusation is completely false,” Kevin Eichinger said in an email. “We have always debated, and we continue that tradition. I emailed them Monday confirming one actually. This is direct from the Democrat playbook.”

Mike Larsen, Garrett’s communication director, acknowledged that Jordan’s campaign had emailed them about a candidate forum Oct. 30, which Garrett plans to attend.

“It’s a week before the election and after early voting begins,” Larsen said. “When we reached out and said we would like to hold these debates, they would have taken place prior to early voting and in different areas of the district. They rejected all of those and said they just can’t schedule them.”

Ken Harbaugh, who is the Democratic nominee for Ohio’s 7th Congressional District, sent a letter to his incumbent opponent, U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, asking for a debate, saying he’s inviting the Congressman to a debate “Anytime. Anywhere.”

“I would love to see 10 debates. Or 9. Or 8,” Harbaugh said in the letter. “But throughout the district, I have been cautioned that when it comes to Bob Gibbs, it is good to keep expectations low. So how about one, Mr. Gibbs? One debate.”

Harbaugh’s campaign said it has received no response from Gibbs or his campaign. Gibbs’ campaign didn’t return requests for comment from The Chronicle-Telegram about the letter.

The Republican nominee for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, Steve Kraus, said he’s having trouble getting a debate scheduled with his opponent, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, as well.

Kraus said he ran into the Congresswoman a couple weeks ago at a festival and asked her for a debate.

“She agreed. She said, ‘Yeah, we can have a debate,’” Kraus said. “I’ve had people trying to reach out to her office and confirm that so we can actually have a debate; however, they’ve been unsuccessful to this point. It’s really in her court.”

A spokesman from Kaptur’s campaign said the congresswoman is open to debates, but right now “the congressional schedule is still in flux.”

“One idea that she is considering is, since Republican legislature sliced up all these different counties, roundtable discussions that include the incumbent members and the challengers endorsed by the state and county parties,” Joshua Stewart said. “She wants to make sure all these other candidates get an opportunity, as well, to be part of a forum.”

The general election will take place Nov. 6.

Contact Scott Mahoney at (440) 329-7146 or smahoney@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.
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