By Rod Boshart, Gazette Des Moines Bureau
DES MOINES — The debate over the debates in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race took another twist Friday when incumbent GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s campaign accepted an Oct. 19 invitation but said the senator would not participate in an Iowa Public Television debate due to a format dispute.
Democratic challenger Patty Judge’s campaign charged Grassley with being “disingenuous and dishonest” with Iowa voters. Both campaigns had agreed to the IPTV format “in principle,” Judge spokesman Sam Peocker said.
“Until this afternoon, the Grassley campaign continued to clearly and repeatedly insist that the IPTV debate was the only televised debate they would agree to, and never questioned the format until late Friday afternoon,” Roecker said.
Judge has proposed at least four face-to-face debates with Grassley.
Friday’s announcement means Grassley has accepted an invitation from Quincy Media Group for a debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at Morningside College in Sioux City and also a debate sponsored by WHO radio, said Grassley Works campaign manager Bob Haus. He indicated discussions are ongoing for additional debates.
The Oct. 19 debate — preceding the second presidential debate — will be broadcast on KTIV-TV in Sioux City, KWWL-TV in Waterloo/Cedar Rapids, KTTC-TV in Rochester, Minn., which serves north-central Iowa, and WGEM-TV in Quincy, Ill., serving southeast Iowa. It also will be streamed live on the stations' websites, Haus said.
“Sen. Grassley looks forward to another debate with a statewide audience,” Haus said. “Just like he has in his previous re-elections, he's committed to taking part in these question-and-answer discussions to continue demonstrating to Iowans why he's the best person to represent them in the United States Senate.”
Grassley also was invited to participate in a debate on Iowa Public Television as he had in past cycles. The campaign tentatively accepted, but an agreement could not be reached on the format, Haus said.
Earlier this week, Judge took the extraordinary step of offering to hold the four debates with Grassley in parking lots of Dairy Queens in Iowa’s largest media markets in hopes that his fondness for ice cream would persuade him to accept the invitation.