Blum, Vernon clash over debate schedule

U.S. House candidates Rod Blum and Monica Vernon.
U.S. House candidates Rod Blum and Monica Vernon.

WATERLOO — The two candidates vying to represent Iowa’s 1st District have both agreed to two debates. But it’s not the same two debates.

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum’s campaign announced an updated debate proposal Friday afternoon, where the first-term Republican agreed to two debates — one on Oct. 14 with KWWL and one on Oct. 18 on the Simon Conway Show on WMT Radio.

Blum, a Dubuque businessman, still proposes four debates, with two others to be held on Oct. 20 in Dubuque and Oct. 24 in Marshalltown, but did not release the specifics of who might host those other two debates.

Democratic challenger Monica Vernon, a former Cedar Rapids City Council woman, has agreed to two debates and previously accepted two televised debates — one from KCRG-TV9 and one from Iowa Public Television.

“He has accepted neither,” said Vernon spokeswoman Michelle Gajewski. “Everyone is getting tired of this game. It’s pretty simple: If Congressman Blum is serious about debating, Monica looks forward to seeing him at those debates on Oct. 26 and Nov. 3 to do so.”

Each camp threw barbs at the other for refusing to compromise.

“It’s disappointing that once again Mrs. Vernon is refusing to compromise. Eastern Iowans deserve better,” said Daniel Sunne, Blum for Congress spokesman.

Gajewski said, “And again, Congressman Blum shows he is really good at saying one thing and doing another.”

She also noted Vernon’s proposed debates have been “on the table for weeks.”

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Blum first proposed a series of 10 debates back in June that would allow the pair to debate issues throughout the 20-county district in northeast Iowa.

“Congressman Blum has now made four separate public debate offers, yet his opponent has refused to come to the negotiating table to work out a compromise,” reads in part the statement from Blum’s campaign in announcing the updated proposals.

When Blum’s offer for 10 debates was countered with two, Blum’s campaign amended the number of debates down to six, and then down to four. While he remains at four proposed debates, Blum’s campaign offered another compromise as well.

“(T)he Blum campaign is willing to have Mrs. Vernon choose two of the four proposed debates above, and the Blum campaign will choose one of her two proposed debates,” the statement reads.

It states that while Blum would prefer more, that particular compromise would still give voters the chance “to hear the candidates compare and contrast their policies three times.”

Blum’s campaign said last month that its “final debate compromise” would be for four debates to be held in the same locations he currently proposes. Vernon’s campaign has continued to propose two debates in keeping with “the precedent set” for the past two election cycles.

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