Frankfort Times: “Will there be debates?”

Frankfort Times
Will there be debates?
by Brian Peloza

David Sanders doesn’t feel he had much of a chance to debate the issues with incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer in his first two runs for the state’s Fourth District seat in 2004 and 2006.

So far, the Democrat isn’t feeling too much better about the chance of debating Todd Rokita, a Republican also running to fill the seat to be vacated by the retiring Buyer.

Sanders said he has sent two letters to the Rokita campaign.

“In effect, (the letters are) to work together to try to establish a schedule of debates,” Sanders said.

Mike Sullivan, Rokita’s campaign manager, said the Indiana Secretary of State is ready to debate.

“We are interested in doing debates organized by third parties that will be fair, well-balanced and well-attended,” Sullivan said.

The sticking point appears to be how the debates are organized. Rokita’s campaign prefers to be invited to debates organized by media outlets and other third-party organizations, such as Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance or a local chamber of commerce.

Sanders, meanwhile, wants to take a hands-on approach in organizing the debates with Rokita.

During a visit to The Times prior to the May 4 primary, Rokita was asked how he would handle debates, if he won the Republican nomination.

“As chief election officer, I’ve always been for a transparent process,” Rokita said. “So we are going to go and look for voters after the primary, if we’re the nominated candidate. I’ve already seen David Sanders at two or three forums, so it is probably two or three more he was seen at with Congressman Buyer. Whatever form it takes, as I run all my races, and we’ve ran them all the same way, we’re going to take them right to the people. If David Sanders is there, that’s fine.”

Sanders hopes for numerous debates, due to the sprawling geography of the district, which spans 12 counties in a nearly straight north-south line.

“Im familiar with the geography of the district because I’ve traveled and met with people of the district,” said Sanders, who noted he has been to the county fair in all 12 counties of the district. “I’m listening to (the voters) on a daily basis.”

Thus far, Sanders said debates are scheduled for Aug. 10 in Ellettsville and Aug. 24 in Greenwood.

Sullivan noted Rokita attended 10 election forums in advance of the May primary, though he did not appear at a Clinton County political forum held for the congressional candidates.