by Max Brantley
I mentioned yesterday that it appeared unlikely the Arkansas Times-Channel 4 would be able to arrange a final debate between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter. They debated three times before the first primary.
Lincoln's campaign has said it can't work in an appearance in the final week of campaigning. Halter, naturally, has moved to make a point of it. She's hiding behind her schedule to avoid questions, he says. If I were the Lincoln campaign, I'd respond that participation in debate is no guarantee of an answer to questions -- see Halter on the enduring question about card check legislation.
Lincoln will be appearing at Philander Smith College at 12:30 p.m. Friday with Bill Clinton.
Philander is a historically black college and its use as a platfrom seems an indication of Lincoln's effort to shore up the black voter base, traditionally very supportive of her. It didn't turn out that way in the first primary, however. Halter ran strong in counties with a large percentage of minority voters, also in Little Rock. One example: Greater Archview Baptist Church is historically just about the highest voting predominantlhy black voting precinct. Lincoln ran ahead of Halter there by only 37 votes, 277-240. It's a precinct that Clinton typically carried 90-10 or better.
North Little Rock -- Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter has accepted an offer of a televised debate with Senator Blanche Lincoln any time between now and the June 8 runoff election, but the incumbent says she can't fit a discussion of the issues into her campaign schedule.
“Blanche Lincoln is hiding behind her schedule and refusing to debate in a deliberate attempt to avoid answering to Arkansans as to why she has voted to cut Social Security,” said Halter campaign manager Carol Butler. “Lieutenant Governor Halter has agreed to debate any day next week even if he needs to change his schedule, because Arkansans deserve an opportunity to hear the candidates debate the important issues facing our state. We challenge Senator Lincoln to do the same.”
“At the last debate before the May 18th primary, Senator Lincoln said that she is open to cutting Social Security and Medicare,” said Butler. “Now she is unwilling to participate in another debate because she knows that Arkansans want a clearer explanation. There are plenty of other important issues that also merit further discussion. Senator Lincoln should stop dodging these debates and dodging Arkansans.”
The Halter campaign has told the Arkansas Times that Lieutenant Governor Halter looks forward to another debate with Senator Lincoln. The Arkansas Times, which is working with KARK-TV (Channel 4) on the debate details, posted an item on its blog Tuesday afternoon that the Lincoln campaign said she would be unavailable any time on or after Tuesday, June 1.
"Senator Lincoln said on the night of the primary election that the June 8 runoff should be all about the issues, then she does a 180-degree turn and puts out another negative TV ad lying about her opponent," Butler added. "Obviously her campaign is not about the issues; otherwise she would agree to a debate."
The Halter campaign has a detailed schedule in the works for the final week of the race, but remains flexible to make the changes needed to accommodate a debate.
In addition, Lieutenant Governor Halter's schedule today includes visits with older Arkansans for whom protecting Social Security and Medicare are priority issues that should be openly debated by both Senate candidates:
• 8:25 a.m. -- Participate in "Walk Your Socks Off," Good Shepherd Ecumenical Center, 2701 Aldersgate Road, Little Rock. The one-mile walk marks National Senior Health and Fitness Day.
• 9:35 a.m. -- Talk with members of Sherwood Senior Citizens Center, 2301 Thornhill Drive, Sherwood.
At a May 14 debate, Senator Lincoln said, in answer to a question about balancing the federal budget, "You have to look at mandatory spending programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid."