New Hampshire’s Democrat Senate candidate and incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan is refusing to debate her Republican rival Don Bolduc at an upcoming campaign event, despite previously pledging to do so.
According to the New Hampshire Journal, both candidates had originally agreed to participate in a debate hosted by the Nashua Chamber of Commerce this month, but on Oct. 6, Chamber President and CEO Wendy Hunt “contacted the Bolduc campaign with news that Hassan would not participate in the event if she and Bolduc were to appear onstage together.”
“The position of the Hassan campaign is that they would only participate if this were a stand-alone forum, not a debate,” Hunt told the Journal, but noted “I never pitched that event as a stand-alone, one-at-a-time forum.”
Last month, Hassan prematurely released a list of debates that she planned on participating in this fall before New Hampshire Republicans had even selected their nominee for Senate. Included in the list is one debate hosted by left-wing organizations such as New Hampshire Public Radio, New Hampshire PBS, and New Hampshire Bulletin.
In a statement provided to The Federalist, Bolduc campaign spokeswoman Kate Constantini said that Hassan’s decision to back out of the Nashua debate is “perfectly understandable” given her “lackluster record” while serving in Congress.
“Public officials owe it to the people they are seeking to represent to make the case directly and answer their questions, not hide behind attack ads sponsored by special interests in Washington,” Constantini said. “This is the action of a desperate politician who knows she is going to face the music from voters in a few short weeks and her time in politics is running out.”
According to his campaign, Bolduc has proposed a total of seven debates.
The Hassan campaign did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment on why Sen. Hassan backed out of the Nashua debate with Bolduc or if she believes that voters deserve to see Bolduc and herself debating the issues most pertinent to New Hampshire on live television.
Despite more reliable polling firms such as the Trafalgar Group showing Bolduc gaining on Hassan in the final weeks of the election cycle, the Democrat senator is reportedly limiting her in-person appearances at public campaign events. According to a separate report from the New Hampshire Journal, as of Saturday Bolduc had made at least 40 in-person, public campaign appearances since winning the GOP Senate primary on Sept. 13, while Hassan only made four over the same time frame (and didn’t allow “open access to the press” at any of them).
“[I]n the nearly 100 days since the Fourth of July holiday, Hassan has made just 15 in-state, in-person campaign appearances — about one per week,” the Journal reported. “Meanwhile, both during the primary and after, Bolduc has averaged more than two per day according to data provided by the campaign and confirmed by news reports and social media accounts.”
In addition to Hassan, the Journal reported, Democrat New Hampshire “Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas refused to participate in Nashua Chamber debates and will instead take part in forums where they can avoid being onstage with their Republican opponents.”
But New Hampshire is hardly the only battleground state where Democrat candidates are avoiding debates with their Republican opponents. In Arizona, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs has refused to debate GOP candidate Kari Lake, with Hobbs’ campaign declaring Lake to be too extreme to share a stage with.
“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.
Other highly contested elections experiencing similar situations include the Senate races in Washington — between Democrat Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley — and in Pennsylvania, where Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has invoked his recovery from a stroke to limit debate appearances against Republican Mehmet Oz.