Democratic candidate Ben Ponder distributed a news release last night about a Mountain Home debate among 1st District candidates. This drew a retort from a representative of Tim Wooldridge, questioning whether this was an agreed event, as the news release suggested, or an effort to maneuver other candidates into a debate.
I asked Ponder this morning whether there is a scheduled debate to which all candidates have agreed. I received a response that did not answer that question. He later updated it, but the short answer is, so far, no.
I got the following response from Bill Paschal, a consultant for candidate Steve Bryles. Sounds like the debate was oversold in the Ponder release.
UPDATE: Similar response later from the Wooldridge campaign, plus an answer to a question I threw in of whether Wooldridge would promise not to switch parties if elected. He would and did.
FROM BILL PASCHAL
As of this morning my friend and client, Steve Bryles, has not received an official invitation to debate from ASU-Mt. Home or KTLO radio. From what we know, the Mt. Home debate is a product of Ben Ponder. While I applaud Ponder for taking the initiative to bring debate to the campaign, I also chastise him for creating a perception that the debate has been agreed to by all the candidates. Bryles will not be able to participate in the Mt. Home debate on the date picked by Ponder. He has a long standing event planned that evening in a far corner of the district. I have counseled Bryles to be pro-active in his scheduling not reactive. Too often candidates lose control of their campaigns by attending every event that he/she is invited to. To win on May 18, Bryles must execute his strategic plan. He will debate the other candidates in the race. I have been swapping calls with the Causey camp. I will work with them and the other campaigns to identify a date, place, time and format that is agreeable to all candidates. I’ll keep you posted.
FROM WOOLDRIDGE CAMPAIGN
Thanks for your interest in the Tim Wooldridge for Congress campaign. Answering your second question first, Tim Wooldridge absolutely vows not to switch parties when elected. He is a lifelong Democrat. Tim had the honor and privilege of serving his constituents for 16 years as an elected Democrat in the House and Senate. A record no other candidate in this race can claim.
As to your first question, the only thing we know about a debate is an email from one of the other candidates about a debate in Mt. Home. We have received no invitation from any of the alleged hosts or sponsors. We are not certain there is a debate scheduled and have been unable to confirm the live broadcast that was promoted in the email from the candidate.
While Tim is anxious to debate and have an open dialog with all the candidates in the race, he has a prior commitment on Tuesday evening. We prefer to cooperate with all the candidates and their campaigns regarding locations and dates as opposed to being dictated to by one candidate. Tim stands ready, willing, and able to participate in debates across the district.
FROM BEN PONDER
We have strong commitments from Causey, Cook, Green, and myself.
That's officially a quorum. I'm still working on Wooldridge and
Bryles. I will talk with both again sometime this afternoon. The
debate will happen. I hope both choose to participate.
As you know, it's herding cats to get six campaigns to agree to
anything. We're trying to get four debates set: Mountain Home,
Jonesboro, Lonoke, and West Memphis. Lots of moving parts, but I'm
working hard on it--personally--because I think it's imperative that
we talk seriously about the issues facing our country right now.
There's too much at stake in this election to evade the issues upon
which history will judge us.