Since taking office in 2003, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has never formally debated a Democratic opponent. He has claimed that a candidate has to run “a legitimate campaign” to earn a debate. Matt Campbell, King’s current Democratic opponent, issued a challenge to King on July 8, urging the congressman to debate him:
Campbell issued a formal debate prospectus to the King campaign earlier today and requested a response date of August 10th so that negotiations for the debates and venues can be determined.
“It’s long overdue for King to respect the American democratic process,” Campbell says.
Campbell has called for three debates as appropriate for the Congressional race and has proposed televised debates in Sioux City and Council Bluffs and for a third to be held elsewhere in the district. Campbell has suggested various moderators such as the VFW, the League of Women Voters and the Iowa Farm Bureau among others.
This morning, ThinkProgress interviewed Campbell, who said that King had still not responded to his request:
Q: So do you think there’s some other reason that he’s avoiding debating you?
CAMPBELL: I think it’s strategy. For him, he’s been in office for a long while, and he feels like it’s an easy way for him to stay in the limelight. I think it’s deliberate — personally I feel like his refusal to do so is a grave disrespect to the process. I think it serves the public interest to have a public debate. Our country certainly faces very serious issues going forward, regardless of an election outcome, it merits public discussion on the issues.
Frankly, I think Steve King’s one of those politicians who doesn’t like the a-word — the “accountability” word — and I frankly think he’s cowardly for not wanting to stand up in a room with his challenger, publicly. I had said before, I think it’s quite disrespectful to the process. What I would say to him personally, if I have the opportunity, is that we’ve got men and women standing in harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq, facing bullets and land mines, and he certainly can stand in a room and answer questions and discuss the issues.
We then called King’s campaign office. The person with whom we spoke said that he was not sure whether King would be taking up Campbell’s offer. Campbell told us that his office would be following up with King later today. In June, when asked about the challenge, King’s spokesperson said that the campaign needed to “get to know” Campbell more before deciding to debate. “We’ve been observing his campaign, so we can find out what his positions on the issues are,” she said. “Obviously, he won in a convincing fashion, so we will look at the strengths he offered.”
According to Fox News President CEO, “The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda.” Is the same true if you can’t face your opponent?