Democrat candidates in pivotal races across the country are avoiding opportunities to defend their platforms before the voters two months before the November midterms.
On Sunday, Arizona Secretary of State and fall gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs became the latest Democrat nominee to refuse a debate with her Republican rival. In a statement, the Hobbs campaign declared former television anchor Kari Lake too extreme to share the stage with the Democrat candidate.
“Unfortunately, debating a conspiracy theorist like Kari Lake — whose entire campaign platform is to cause enormous chaos and make Arizona the subject of national ridicule — would only lead to constant interruptions, pointless distractions, and childish name-calling,” Hobbs campaign manager Nicole DeMont said. “We must respectfully decline the invitation.”
Hobbs’ campaign had demanded separate half-hour interviews instead.
Lake called on Hobbs to “grow a spine” in a video published on Twitter.
“I have asked the Clean Elections Commission to extend the deadline for you to confirm your attendance to the day of the debate,” Lake said, announcing plans to speak across from an empty chair on Oct. 12 if need be.
In the video, Lake also labeled Hobbs a “twice-convicted racist,” referencing the verdicts in two jury trials which found the secretary of state engaged in discriminatory employment practices as Arizona Senate minority leader.
Further up north on the west coast, five-term Washington Sen. Patty Murray is refusing to engage with Republican Senate nominee Tiffany Smiley, who challenged the incumbent lawmaker to four debates.
“She not only refuses to accept the debate with me,” Smiley said on Fox News’ Guy Benson Show Monday, “but she won’t even participate in a joint interview.”
On the east coast, Pennsylvania Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is pursuing an open Senate seat vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, has blamed his health for refusal to debate Republican television doctor Mehmet Oz. In May, Fetterman suffered a stroke where — in his words — he “almost died.”
“As I recover from this stroke and improve my auditory processing and speech, I look forward to continuing to meet with the people of Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said in a statement when declining a debate invitation for September. Oz has challenged Fetterman to five events, whose campaign called Fetterman’s reluctance “insulting the intelligence of Pennsylvania voters.”
In refusing to debate because of his health, Fetterman, whose auditory stumbles on the campaign trail make the candidate at times seem indistinguishable from President Joe Biden, is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, Fetterman claimed his health precluded the Democrat nominee from taking the stage with his Republican opponent, Dr. Oz. On the other, voters are still expected to believe Fetterman is healthy enough to represent them in the upper chamber, complete with long hours on the Senate floor, for a full six-year term.
After blowback for bowing out of an event on Sept. 6, Fetterman gave an interview with Politico where he pledged to participate in a single televised debate with Dr. Oz scheduled for October.
“We’re absolutely going to debate Dr. Oz, and that was really always our intent to do that,” Fetterman told the paper.
But on Monday, even the Washington Post editorial board called on Fetterman, who initially concealed the severity of his stroke, to do more.
“Mr. Fetterman has seemingly been reluctant to commit to firm debate dates, and that troubling stance has raised questions about whether he, still recovering from a serious stroke, is fit to serve in the Senate,” wrote the Post editorial board. “Mr. Fetterman is asking voters for a six-year contract without giving them enough information to make sound judgments about whether he’s up for such a demanding job.”