BEND, Ore. — After a statement from Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) on Wednesday declaring that he had agreed to a televised debate on KTVZ in Bend with his opponent, challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D) responded with a full-page letter indicating that the agreement was not entirely mutual.
"In July, I agreed to debate my opponent and am upholding that commitment today," Walden said in a statement. "I appreciate News Channel 21’s willingness to host this debate and accept their invitation to discuss the issues impacting Oregon’s Second District on October 5."
"This debate will provide the venue for a robust conversation on these important subjects and more in a central location that will solicit questions from the public, be broadcast to a wide audience in Oregon, live streamed on social media, and available for anyone interested to view online," Walden continued.
However, Walden's agreement may not have represented a direct response to his opponent's many offers. McLeod-Skinner has made no secret of her desire to debate Rep. Walden, but her campaign claims that their attempts to establish terms have long gone unanswered.
"Wires may have been crossed, or Walden wants to dictate the place and terms of debate, it remains to be seen," said Jay Lininger, Political Director for McLeod-Skinner's campaign. "Walden never has communicated with Jamie despite her repeated attempts at direct contact."
McLeod-Skinner issued her written response the same day:
"I learned on September 17 from KTVZ-TV in Bend that you agreed with them to appear at their studio at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 5th, for a 30-minute television broadcast exchange moderated by the station," McLeod-Skinner wrote. "A robust debate for public office includes an exchange on issues of concern to voters, in a venue that is accessible to the public, with a neutral moderator."
"My concern with KTVZ's proposed format is that it would not meet those OR the above criteria," McLeod-Skinner continued.
McLeod-Skinner's letter went on to suggest that the proposed debate format would not give either candidate time enough to give considered responses to questions and would not be open to the public. She also claimed that executives at KTVZ's parent company had donated to Walden's campaign — potentially, although not necessarily, poisoning the proverbial well.
Instead, McLeod-Skinner issued a counter-proposal.
"I was delighted to see the City Club of Central Oregon offer to host an impartially moderated debate, open and free to the public, with the opportunity for a live broadcast. I propose that we mutually agree to accept the City Club's invitation to debate, at the same time and location in the district when you have already said you are available," McLeod-Skinner said.
The alternative debate that McLeod-Skinner proposed would last 90 minutes, be open to voters and journalists, and could still be broadcast live on TV, radio and the internet. She also proposed two additional debates — one in eastern Oregon, and another in southern Oregon.
At the time of this article's posting, Walden's campaign had not responded with a request for comment regarding his opponent's letter and the proposal for an alternative venue.
Walden is the nine-term Republican representative for Oregon's U.S. Congressional District 2, which encompasses most of eastern, central, and southern Oregon. This is McLeod-Skinner's first bid for Walden's seat.
Rep. Walden's campaign replied to a request for comment with the following statement on September 21:
News Channel 21 reached out to both candidates with a proposed format for a debate that will solicit questions from the public, be broadcast live to a wide audience in Oregon, live streamed on social media, and available online for anyone interested to view in its entirety after the debate concludes. Greg has agreed to this debate and informed the News Channel 21 that he has accepted their invitation.
This venue and format will allow for the fair, non-partial, and balanced platform for a debate that Greg agreed to in July. While this is a stark contrast to the one-sided forums hosted by groups like Indivisible that Greg's opponent has opted to participate in, we see no reason to object to a debate in the district's largest city moderated by a respected journalist. Greg looks forward to a productive and in-depth debate on the issues impacting Oregonians with his opponent on October 5.