Debate continues over 2nd Congressional District candidate debates

Smith wants to settle dates, Simpson wants to wait until filing deadline closes

(Idaho Falls) Post RegisterFebruary 14, 2014 

A black ticker — tracking days, hours, minutes and seconds — has kept a steady pace on Bryan Smith’s website for more than 31 days.

That’s how long it’s been since the 2nd Congressional District candidate challenged eight-term incumbent Mike Simpson to three debates — in Boise, Twin Falls and Idaho Falls.

“We think it’s very important for the people of Idaho to hear our contrasting views on the size and scope of government and be able to hear us discuss those,” Smith said.

But members of the Simpson campaign said the ticker is unnecessary, and more importantly, disingenuous.

Simpson campaign senior adviser Sarah Nelson said Simpson is willing to participate in the debates and will work out scheduling as soon as the March 14 filing deadline closes.

The Simpson campaign released a Jan. 14 statement on the debates — the day Smith offered the challenge. Nelson said the campaign wants to wait to schedule the debates out of consideration to any other candidates who may wish to join the race and participate in the discussion.

But Smith said that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for setting up a debate schedule for two busy candidates with the Republican primary approaching May 20.

“We’ve said let’s get that on the calendar now because we don’t want them to say, after the filing date, ‘Gee, our calendar is full,’” Smith said. “I can’t blame him for not wanting to debate his record in Congress for the last 15 years. I think he’s just delaying that because he doesn’t want to defend his voting record.”

Todd Cranney, another senior Simpson campaign adviser, said the congressman is not shying away from an open discussion with Smith.

“Any election has a debate process, and Mike has a reliable track record of debating in the past that he’s well-known for,” Cranney said. “Mike looks forward to sharing his proven, conservative record of delivering results for the people of Idaho and its voters.”

The Smith campaign hopes the debates would be moderated by news media outlets in each of the three areas and televised where possible.

Tentative plans are coming together to host a debate in Twin Falls.

Travis Quast, publisher of the Twin Falls Times-News, said his newspaper has talked with both campaigns to bring the candidates before Magic Valley residents.

“We have had conversations with both campaigns for hosting a debate in Twin Falls,” he said. “At this point, no firm date has been set as we’re waiting for the Simpson campaign to name a date.”

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