In 2008, supporters of Democratic Congressional candidate Rob Hubler donned chicken suits outside some of Representative Steve King’s events, to highlight the incumbent’s refusal to debate. At that time, King’s excuse was that the League of Women Voters and Sioux City Journal would not provide “neutral” forums. He cited the Journal’s alleged “attacks” on his character, perhaps referring to a July 2008 report on King’s weak record of legislative achievement.
This summer, Democratic candidate Matt Campbell has challenged King to debates on several occasions. King hasn’t responded. I could have told you (actually, I did tell you) that King wasn’t going to debate Campbell. King likes to speak on conservative talk radio or in other forums where he controls the agenda. He’s not going to stand next to a knowledgeable opponent answering hard questions about substantive issues.
Last week Campbell announced that he had accepted an invitation from KTIV in Sioux City to debate King on October 23. The Campbell campaign press release lists several times King has claimed to welcome debate with Democrats. As usual, King did not respond to Campbell. So the Democrat turned up at King’s town hall meeting in Sioux City yesterday. Bret Hayworth has the story and a video clip at his Politically Speaking blog.
After Campbell pressed King to agree to a debate, the Republican from Kiron, Iowa, replied: “…My answer to that is that judging by the way you have conducted yourself you have not earned it.”
King went on to say that Campbell’s press releases contain too many personal attacks.
“I have said this in the past and everybody in the district that’s paid attention knows this: There needs to be a campaign that’s run that addresses the issues,” King said. […]
King was asked after the meeting if debating a political opponent is indeed a vital part of the American campaign process, as Campbell contends. “I don’t know where that rule would be written. I debate people every day,” King said.
Campbell makes too many “personal attacks”? This coming from a guy whose hyperbole about Democratic leaders is legendary. Yesterday Campbell’s campaign issued another statement on the matter. Excerpt:
Campbell says, “Steve King has never held himself accountable to the voters of Iowa in eight years and needs to fulfill his responsibility to the Democratic process. Steve King is playing games when in reality he’s the one not respecting the process. Even a Tea Party member of the audience agreed King should debate me.”
“I cordially introduced myself to Steve King in Storm Lake as King indicates I should have and since then King has ignored letters and phone calls from my office to discuss his participation in a formal debate focused on the issues facing the country,” Campbell says. “It’s been 8 years, and it’s high time he fulfills his responsibility to voters.”
Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky chimed in with these comments:
“The people of the 5th District deserve an open debate between Steve King and Matt Campbell. They have earned the right to hear from both candidates in a fair and public setting and Steve King is proudly standing in the way of that,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky. “Surely a four-term Congressman like Steve King is capable of debating the issues, the only question is why he feels his constituents don’t deserve the chance to make an informed decision in this election.” […]
“It’s disappointing that Steve King, who never misses an opportunity to comment on an issue, is hiding from a real debate with his opponent. The people of the 5th District deserve better, Matt Campbell will be a strong voice for hard working families across the district” added Dvorsky.
I agree with the sentiment, but King shouldn’t just be chided, he should be ridiculed.
Rent a few chicken suits and follow King around for the next two months to remind voters that their four-term representative is afraid to face his opponent in a debate.
In other news on the IA-05 race, I see Warren Buffett recently donated the maximum allowable amount to Campbell’s campaign. If you can afford to chip in a few bucks, donate here. If you live in the fifth district or within striking distance, you can sign up to volunteer for Campbell here. Learn more about Campbell’s and his political beliefs here.
UPDATE: Democratic Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin said today that Senator Chuck Grassley “should stop being a coward” and agree to one of the many outstanding debate invitations in that race. Grassley agreed to a 30-minute joint appearance on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press program, but has not accepted invitations from:
WHO-TV/Des Moines Register
KCRG/Cedar Rapids Gazette
Iowa Public Radio