Judge, Grassley camps spar over debate disagreements

Joint public television appearance canceled

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic challenger Patty Judge.
Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic challenger Patty Judge.

DES MOINES — Democratic challenger Patty Judge called out Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, accusing him of telling “a downright lie” Monday when he blamed her for the cancellation of a televised debate that would have aired statewide on Iowa Public Television Oct. 20.

Former Lt. Gov. Judge said it was Grassley who took the “unprecedented” action last Friday to back out of the IPTV debate, which is a traditional, long-standing venue for face-to-face meetings of candidates seeking Iowa’s most prominent statewide public offices.

Judge said she initially wanted the IPTV debate to originate in Davenport, so every part of the state got a chance to see the candidates. But when the statewide station said the event would take place at its Johnston studio, she agreed to accept conditions she said Grassley already had approved.

That’s when Grassley “rescinded his acceptance without giving voters a reason,” Judge said, and announced he had accepted an Oct. 19 debate invitation from Quincy Media Group for a televised debate at Morningside College in Sioux City and a broadcast debate sponsored by WHO radio — but would not participate in an IPTV debate due to a format dispute.

Later Friday, IPTV officials announced they had canceled the Iowa Press debate for the Senate race after Grassley, the six-term Republican incumbent, had rescinded his acceptance of IPTV’s invitation.

“We are disappointed the debate will not be available to all Iowans on our air, online or in our studio,” IPTV Executive Director and General Manager Molly Phillips said in a statement.

The statement indicated Judge had accepted an invitation on Sept. 23 and Grassley’s campaign issued an Aug. 5 news release announcing his participation in an hourlong debate.

On Monday, Grassley’s campaign issued a statement calling Judge a “debate dodger” with a “clear record of snubbing Iowans,” and urging her to accept the WHO radio debate that all Iowa voters could access online.

“Patty Judge has an unfortunate history of dodging debates and chronic absenteeism on the campaign trail, starving voters of critical information about where she stands on the important issues facing our state and nation,” said Grassley Committee campaign manager Bob Haus in a statement.

He said she should accept the radio format instead of engaging in “more politically motivated stalling tactics.”

Grassley said the Oct. 19 debate immediately would precede a Trump-Clinton presidential debate and be broadcast on KTIV in Sioux City, KWWL in Waterloo/Cedar Rapids, KTTC in Rochester, Minn., WGEM in Quincy, Ill., as well as online, offering the opportunity to reach the greatest number of Iowans.

He also blamed Judge’s request to locate the IPTV debate in Davenport as the format snafu that prevented an agreement.

Judge, in a teleconference Monday, gave a blunt response to Grassley’s contentions, telling reporters: “That’s absolutely a lie. You know, I’m not even going to try to sugar coat that. That’s just a downright lie.”

“We had said we would like to have that in Davenport. However, we were told by public television that wouldn’t work for them, we said fine. We agreed to the public television debate. Grassley had already agreed. After we agreed to the same terms and conditions that he had previously agreed to, he pulled out, and that’s the straight truth,” Judge said.

Judge said it is “an embarrassment to democracy” that voters in central Iowa, southwest Iowa and the Quad Cities television markets won’t have an opportunity to watch the candidates answer the same questions on the same stage. She said she would accept the WHO radio debate if it also were televised, and she called for both candidates to participate in a televised debate on KCCI co-sponsored by the Des Moines Register.

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