J.D. Hayworth Delivers Ballot Petitions to Secretary of State's Office; Again Challenges John McCain to Debate

Former Congressman J.D. Hayworth continues to wage his debate over debates, and now he may have the ammunition necessary to bring his opponent in the GOP primary for Senate, John McCain, to the table.

Hayworth delivered what he claims is more than 11,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office this morning, which -- if certified -- is more than enough to qualify him as a certified candidate in the race.

Hayworth has very publicly challenged McCain to debates since storming into "The Maverick's" Phoenix office last month and dropping off a letter inviting McCain to debate.

In an apparent effort to not lend legitimacy to the candidacy of an uncertified candidate, McCain said he would only debate Hayworth when his candidacy was certified by the state, which now appears to be happening about a month before the McCain campaign's estimate of late May or June.

Now that it appears he will be a certified candidate, Hayworth has proposed two debates for May 22, and June 2.

"Senator McCain has dodged each and every debate challenge I have made, saying he would wait until I was a qualified candidate," Hayworth says at a news conference this morning. "Well, there is no place left to hide, no excuse left to use."

Hayworth then stunned us this morning by making another valid point.

While explaining McCain's refusal to debate him until he was a certified candidate, Hayworth pointed out that McCain's campaign has been running negative ads about him -- as though he were already a certified candidate -- for months.

"The people of Arizona deserve to see us squaring off on the issues of the day," Hayworth says. "Today, I qualified for the ballot. Senator McCain needs to stop hiding behind excuses and step up to the podium and debate."

We contacted McCain spokesman Brian Rogers to see if Arizona's senior senator would now accept Hayworth's challenge, but he did not immediately get back to us.