Government

Dave Loebsack vs. Chris Peters election debate is off

TV station: Democrat insisted Libertarian candidate be invited, too

Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Republican candidate Chris Peters and Libertarian candidate Mark Strauss participate in an Oct. 8 forum for Iowa’s 2nd District candidates at the Coralville Public Library, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Johnson County. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, Republican candidate Chris Peters and Libertarian candidate Mark Strauss participate in an Oct. 8 forum for Iowa’s 2nd District candidates at the Coralville Public Library, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Johnson County. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

A televised debate between Democratic U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack and Republican challenger Chris Peters has been canceled after the event sponsors could not agree on terms with Loebsack’s reelection campaign, news station KWQC-TV6 reported Monday.

The debate, arranged in part by the Davenport NBC affiliate, was scheduled to be broadcast Saturday from St. Ambrose University. KWQC reported Loebsack’s campaign asked last week to include Libertarian candidate Mark Strauss, a Bettendorf businessman, and refused to participate if he wasn’t added.

The station had been negotiating with the campaigns for “several weeks” and was unwilling to accommodate that request, according to the report. The station requires candidates to have raised at least $250,000 or show at least 10 percent voter support in the Iowa Poll sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Mediacom and conducted by Selzer and Co.

Ahead of Monday’s announcement, Loebsack campaign manager Zach Meunier said the campaign was still “open to” a debate but thought it was “important that Mr. Strauss be included.” Meunier said Strauss raised “interesting ideas” during an earlier forum that “voters deserved to hear.”

Matt Evans, the campaign manager for Peters, accused Loebsack’s staff of creating last-minute hurdles to “derail the debate,” saying Loebsack was “dodging.”

“From our point of view, I think it’s an attempt to avoid defending his record in front of his constituents,” Evans said. “If (Loebsack) wanted to debate, he would’ve made every effort to make it happen.”

The candidates are running for Iowa’s 2nd District, a seat Loebsack first won in 2006. The Southeastern Iowa district includes Iowa City, Davenport, Fort Madison and Burlington.

Peters also ran under the Republican Party banner in 2016, losing to Loebsack by 8 points.

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Polls taken in September showed Loebsack ahead of Peters by wide margins. A survey conducted by Emerson College had Peters trailing by 23 points. A later poll showed a closing gap between the candidates, with Peters behind by 6 points, but that survey’s results may have been influenced by a disproportionate number of Republican respondents.

Also appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot for the seat is David Clark, a no-party candidate from Mount Pleasant. Strauss, the Libertarian, participated in an Iowa City candidate forum last week alongside Loebsack and Peters. But Clark did not attend.

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