UPDATE: 2:11 p.m: About ten minutes after I blogged this post, we received this email from Reichert campaign spokesman Darren Littell:
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2010 14:05:45 -0700
To: John Henrickson
Got your voicemail. Thanks for your offer and your patients, our campaign manager is in contact with your publisher on the debate proposal.
The News Tribune this week formally offered to host a debate between Washington’s 8th District Congressional candidates, Republican incumbent Congressman Dave Reichert and his Democratic challenger Suzan DelBene.
TNT Public Life Team Leader John Henrikson extended the offer to both campaigns on Wednesday. The basics of the invitation are detailed in this email sent to Reichert campaign spokesman Darren Littell:
The News Tribune would be willing to host a debate between the 8th District candidates next week. It would be here at our building from 6-7:30 p.m. on a weeknight to be decided – we are trying to provide some flexibility given the candidates’ schedule. We are inviting the League of Women Voters to co-sponsor and will also invite TVW to tape it. It would be moderated by Peter Callaghan and we would allow audience members to pose questions.
Let me know as soon as possible if the congressman would be willing to participate and what days would work. Obviously, I am sending a similar invitation to the DelBene campaign.
By the end of the day Wednesday, DelBene’s camp had agreed to the offer. Reichert’s campaign, meanwhile, said it was considering the invitation.
The “under consideration” line was used again, when we and others asked about the debate yesterday. In fact, at the end of a one-hour online chat yesterday afternoon hosted by The Seattle Times, Reichert was asked if a debate was going to happen. He responded:
It is under consideration. Our campaign offices are in communication.
Later Thursday afternoon, with still no definitive answer from Reichert’s camp, Henrikson emailed and spoke with Littell again, giving the campaign a deadline of noon today to respond, so that the newspaper could begin making arrangements, if necessary.
Today’s deadline came and went — and we’ve still yet to hear back.
(Henrikson called Littell again shortly before the deadline today, leaving a message that an answer was needed ASAP, or the offer would be withdrawn. I also emailed Littell asking him to call us. Neither of us have received a response.)
The subject of a candidates’ debate — or rather, whether one would happen at all – is well-trodden ground in what’s become an increasingly negative campaign waged by both sides. In mid-September, DelBene’s campaign requested four debates with Reichert, but heard nothing for more than a week — when the Reichert camp responded in an brief email that the Congressman’s busy schedule made such an event a difficult proposition. Still, Reichert’s campaign staff maintained the Congressman remained open to the possibility.
Ever since, the DelBene camp and state Democrats have hammered away at Reichert, contending he is intentionally ducking DelBene and other public appearances because he’s afraid to defend a spotty Congressional record, including recent votes against Wall Street and health care reform efforts. Reichert has dismissed such claims as a political ploy, saying he’s made numerous public appearances and isn’t afraid to debate anyone.
The News Tribune extended its offer to hold the debate this week, after I asked Reichert during a recent interview if he was going to debate DelBene. He responded:
“The thing is, no one’s offered. I’m not going to go out and I’m not going to rent a hall and I’m not going to organize a debate. But you know, what’s happened in the past, is that, for example, The Seattle Times has always had this huge debate event. I’ve always participated in that, in the past three elections, 4 or 500 people. Why would I avoid uh, debating her when I’ve debated every – I’ve debated Dave Ross who I think can probably clean just about anyone’s clock around town. He’s good.