Judge accuses Grassley of ducking

Incumbent has accepted 2 debate invitations; challenger wants 4

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Patty Judge is ratcheting up pressure on GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley to face her in more than two debates.

The six-term senator has accepted invitations from WHO Radio and Iowa Public Television to participate in face-to-face debates with Judge.

However, Judge called for four debates 77 days ago. With negotiations between the campaigns stalled, she has launched a website, www.DuckDuckChuck.com, claiming Grassley repeatedly has attempted to dodge debating her.

The website includes a timeline showing Grassley’s campaign has refused to respond to multiple requests to schedule debates in front of audiences across the state.

“When it comes to debates, we’re more likely to get an answer out of the cardboard Chuck Grassley in our television ads,” Judge spokesman Sam Roecker said Wednesday. “He’s ducking debates and refusing to give voters across the state an opportunity to hear where the candidates stand.”

Grassley campaign manager Robert Haus called the new website a “smoke-screen and an excuse,” adding that he has “clearly communicated” with the Judge campaign and “there can be no misunderstanding about what we agreed to.”

Grassley told reporters Wednesday he accepted two debate invitations “a long time ago (and) “negotiations are still going on.”

Roecker disputed that. As of Sept. 13, the Grassley campaign had not responded to a Sept. 1 letter calling for debate in Iowa’s four largest media markets or an email to Grassley’s campaign manager last week seeking clarification on the debate calendar. There has been no discussion about debates since Aug. 5, he said.

“We’re going to debate, yes,” Grassley told reporters Wednesday. “I want you to know that I have always debated my opponents.”

That’s more than can be said about Judge, according to Haus. She has debated opponents only once in four statewide races, although that might have been what her opponents preferred.

“It’s hard to take the Judge campaign seriously given the fact that Judge has skipped five debates” during her primary race, Haus said. “She continues to avoid the press at her meetings. She has held only one open press conference in the entire course of the campaign. She does not hold open town hall meetings to answer questions directly from Iowans.”

In making its case for more than two debates, the Judge campaign noted that in the open-seat Senate race two years ago, Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley debated three times.

The two debates Grassley has accepted would reach statewide audiences and include broadcast, print and digital formats, “maximizing the contribution of their debate formats,” Haus said.

Judge, a former lieutenant governor, secretary of agriculture and state senator, challenged Grassley to four live televised debates in the four major media markets. That would treat Iowa voters in a “fair and respectful way,” said campaign manager Joe Fox said. “All Iowans deserve the opportunity to be engaged with this election in order to make a truly informed choice in November.”

Judge has accepted debate invitations from the Des Moines Register/KCCI-TV, KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, KTIV-TV in Sioux City and IPTV. However, Judge wants the public television debate to be in Davenport in partnership with KWQC and the Quad City Times. She’s also considering WHO Radio’s invitation.

For all of The Gazette's Election 2016 coverage, please visit our election coverage center.

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