A debate between Congressional District 9 candidates essentially turned into a half-hour infomercial for Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, as Republican candidate Wendy Rogers skipped the event.
"This candidate forum is not a debate," Rogers spokesman James Harris explains in a statement to New Times. "Typically, a debate is something hosted by multiple news organizations, with rules discussed in advance with both major party candidates. That never happened, and we do not feel this would be a real debate. As a result, Wendy has chosen to spend the time talking to actual voters."
Although Rogers didn't participate in the debate on the local PBS station's Arizona Horizon, many other candidates have during this election cycle. Out of Congressional District 1, both Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick and Republican challenger Andy Tobin participated in the debate. In Congressional District 7, where Democrat Ruben Gallego essentially locked up the win on primary night, still went on the PBS debate with his libertarian and independent challengers.
All of the candidates involved in races for statewide offices have appeared for the PBS debates too, including gubernatorial candidates Doug Ducey and Fred DuVal (although any statewide candidates receiving Clean Elections funding are more or less required to participate).
Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons concedes before every debate that the half-hour event is more of an "open exchange of ideas" than a formal debate. However, participating in the event is the norm.
However, in the statement from Rogers' spokesman, he says skipping the Horizon debate is not out of the norm, and claims that Sinema skipped the event in 2012.
That's partially true, as Sinema didn't show for a primary debate with fellow Democrats David Schapira and Andrei Cherny, citing a "scheduling mix-up." However, Sinema did show for the general election debate with Gammill and Republican candidate Vernon Parker, which did have a debate feeling to it.
Although many of those Horizon forums do turn into back-and-forth debates, Sinema and Libertarian Powell Gammill spent most of the time in last night's debate promoting their own ideas and agendas in Rogers' absence.
According to Harris, the Rogers campaign proposed a debate moderated by Shane Krauser, who, among other things, used to host a radio show on the same station as recalled ex-Senate President Russell Pearce. According to the Rogers camp, Sinema declined that one.
The video of last night's debate will likely be on the Arizona Horizon website at some point today.
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