Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has refused to appear on stage with Republican challenger Scott Brown at a Manchester and Nashua Chambers of Commerce event scheduled for Oct. 14 at Saint Anselm College, a top debate organizer confirmed Monday night.
While Brown accepted the original invitation for a face-to-face debate, the Shaheen campaign declined, said J. Christopher Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. He said the Shaheen campaign then accepted an alternative forum-style format proposed by the chambers, in which each candidate would appear on the stage at the Dana Center separately.
In an email to the New Hampshire Journal, Williams wrote:
“The Shaheen campaign made it clear to the Nashua and Manchester Chambers last week that they had already committed to three televised debates involving both candidates sharing a stage, and therefore felt adding a fourth debate involving a joint appearance would not be ideal.
“The Shaheen campaign has agreed to participate in a revised event hosted by our two Chambers on Oct 14, which will involve more of a forum-style format in which each candidate appears on the same stage at different times, as opposed to a debate in which both candidates simultaneously appear.”
Williams also wrote: “Our two Chambers are pleased to cohost an event focusing exclusively on issues of interest to New Hampshire’s business community. Whether it’s a debate or a forum is of less importance to us than the fact that both candidates have agreed to appear at the same event and present their positions on business-related issues to southern New Hampshire’s leading business organizations.”
Clarifying in an interview, Williams told the Journal that the Shaheen campaign “declined the original invitation to have them both appear on stage simultaneously and then we followed up with them by proposing the revised format, in which both candidates would appear on the same stage but a separate times.” He said the Shaheen campaign accepted the revised format.
Prominent journalist and author Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Media had been originally slated to moderate the debate, but Williams said, “With the revised format, unfortunately we will not have the participation of Bloomberg Politics. We feel it wasn’t of the value that Bloomberg was interested in and we will look forward to other partnerships next year during the presidential campaign.”
Williams said that instead of Halperin, he and Manchester Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Mike Skelton will co-moderate the forum.
The Brown campaign immediately accused Shaheen of ducking another debate. She has also refused a face-to-face debates that had been scheduled for tonight at Franklin Pierce University and a proposed mid-October debate on radio station WGIR, opting instead to do an interview without Brown.
It is unclear if the Brown campaign will accept the two chambers’ proposal for a forum, which Shaheen’s camp accepted.
The Brown campaign said it will “continue to push to get both candidates on stage.”
Brown campaign manager Colin Reed said in a statement:
“Since Senator Shaheen has refused to hold a single town hall meeting this election, it’s even more important for there to be a series of debates sufficient in number to give the people of New Hampshire the opportunity to understand the differences between Scott Brown and Senator Shaheen. For that reason, we have accepted and proposed seven debates. This is the same number that Governor Hassan has proposed to her Republican opponent. We are hopeful that Senator Shaheen will do the people of New Hampshire the favor of answering questions on the same stage with Scott Brown about the important issues of the day.”
Shaheen has agreed to three televised debates, as Williams noted, and a joint appearance with Brown at the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council next week.
NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn charged Shaheen refused the original debate proposal because “she is unable to defend her record of voting with President Obama 99 perdent of the time. At a time when Senator Shaheen is on a phony ‘jobs tour,’ it is outrageous that she would try to skip a debate about jobs with two of New Hampshire’s largest and most respected chambers of commerce.”
Horn said Shaheen has also “avoided town hall meetings” and “skipped critical committee hearings about national security in Washington, and now she is trying to duck debates.” She called Shaheen’s actions “disgraceful.”