After former Sen. John E. Sununu accused Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of “dodging” debates earlier today (see story below), Republican challenger Scott Brown’s campaign this afternoon proposed what it called a “compromise” for an Oct. 14 event sponsored by the chambers of commerce of Nashua and greater Manchester.
A Brown adviser told the New Hampshire Journal that its plan calls for both candidates to be on stage at the same time, but with no opportunity for rebuttals or interaction between the two.
Each candidate would simply engage in discussions with moderators J. Christopher Williams of the Nashua chamber and Mike Skelton of the Manchester chamber on questions they pose. Presumably, each candidate would be asked the same questions.
Brown had accepted the original format proposed by the chambers for a traditional face-to-face debate. Shaheen declined that format, but then accepted an alternative proposed by the chambers for the candidates to appear separately on stage to answer questions in a forum-style format.
Brown rejected that proposal, calling for a traditional debate, as originally proposed.
Now, Brown’s camp says, “This compromise allows the business community to pose questions to the candidates, who would be on the same stage at the same time, while accommodating Senator Shaheen’s unwillingness to have a substantive debate with her opponent.”
There would be “no opportunity for rebuttals and no questions between the candidates and no crosstalk, just discussions with the moderators.
“We have conveyed this compromise to” Williams of the Nashua chamber, “who we understand will discuss it with the Shaheen campaign.”
In a statement, Brown campaign spokesman Elizabeth Guyton said, “It’s disappointing that Senator Shaheen wants to limit debates with Scott Brown. The debate she is refusing with the Manchester/Nashua Chambers of Commerce is specifically on the subject of jobs, one of the most important issues of the campaign.
“Sadly, her posture of refusing to do town halls and limiting debates is not in keeping with New Hampshire tradition,” Guyton said. “Nonetheless, we are hopeful that for the Manchester/Nashua Chamber event, she will at least consent to appearing at the same time as Scott so they can in turn provide answers to the same questions. True, there would be no opportunity for rebuttal, and the moderator would not be able to follow up, but it is still better than no debate at all or, as Senator Shaheen has suggested, separate appearances. When it comes to the economy, this is no time to be ducking the voters. We hope Senator Shaheen will agree.”
(Our earlier report follows)
A dozen years ago, then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen squared off against then U.S. Rep. John E. Sununu in a debate before the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. The two were vying for the U.S. Senate seat that then by Bob Smith, who had just lost to Sununu in a GOP primary.
The chamber of commerce debate was held on the morning of Oct. 31, 2002 in Manchester. The two candidates then move quickly to Bedford, where they held a noontime debate sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons.
Sununu defeated Shaheen that year, but then lost to her six years later . He has remained low key throughout the current campaign, endorsing fellow Republican Scott Brown shortly after the Sept. 9 primary, along with former Sen. Judd Gregg, but refraining from harsh criticism of Shaheen – until today.
The Shaheen and Brown campaigns remain at odds over how many debates the two should have, with the argument focusing on a scheduled event on Oct. 14 at Saint Anselm College sponsored by the chambers of commerce of Nashua and Manchester. Overall, Brown has accepted seven debates and Shaheen, four.
Sununu weighed in with a statement distributed by the state Republican Party, criticizing his former two-time rival.
“Granite Staters expect to be represented by public officials who are not afraid of their own records,” Sununu said. “During my campaigns against Jeanne Shaheen, we participated in numerous head-to-head debates hosted by respected New Hampshire organizations including the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Debates at local Chambers are especially important during this campaign, given the ongoing economic challenges facing our state and country.
“Jeanne Shaheen is dodging debates with Scott Brown because she knows that she cannot defend her record of voting with President Obama 99 percent of the time,” said Sununu. “Her transparent attempt to avoid a serious discussion of the issues by declining invitations and refusing to appear on stage with Scott undermines our political process and is extremely disrespectful to New Hampshire voters.”
Shaheen’s campaign has responded by reiterating that she has accepted four debates. The first one is scheduled to be held on Monday in North Conway before the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council.
The stalemate over the Oct. 14 event continues today, according to Nashua chamber CEO J. Christopher Williams.