Democrat candidates running in key U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races across the country are avoiding debates with their Republican opponents in the leadup to the 2022 midterm elections.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate John Fetterman announced that he would not be participating in a televised debate scheduled for Sept. 6 against his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz, citing his ongoing recovery from a stroke as part of his justification for the decision.
“As I recover from this stroke and improve my auditory processing and speech, I look forward to continuing to meet with the people of Pennsylvania. They’ll always know where I stand,” he said in a statement.
Since his stroke in May, Fetterman has had limited public appearances on the campaign trail, with the Pennsylvania Democrat producing incoherent ramblings during speeches to voters.
In his statement, Fetterman also cited his hurt feelings over comments from the Oz campaign as his main reason for not participating in the debate. Earlier on Tuesday, the Oz team had put out a list of “concessions” for the debate to accommodate Fetterman, which included an offer to “‘pay for any additional medical personnel’ that Fetterman might need on standby” and “bathroom breaks and allowing him to have all of his notes on hand, along with an earpiece to obtain answers from his staff.”
“Today’s statement from Dr. Oz’s team made it abundantly clear that they think it is funny to mock a stroke survivor. I chose not to participate in this farce,” Fetterman said. “My recovery may be a joke to Dr. Oz and his team, but it’s real for me.”
“I will not be participating in a debate the first week of September, but look forward to having … a real conversation on this once Dr. Oz and his team are ready to take this seriously,” he added.
Fetterman has yet to commit to any of the five moderated debates proposed by Oz earlier this month.
The Oz campaign has since released a press release on the matter, with Communications Director Brittany Yanick saying that Fetterman’s campaign “is insulting the intelligence of Pennsylvania voters.”
“We heard John Fetterman won’t debate Oz in the ‘first week of September’. Ok, so when will he debate?” Yanick said. “He won’t ever say – not even in his latest whiny statement.”
The Fetterman campaign did not respond to The Federalist’s inquiry as to whether Fetterman believes Pennsylvania voters deserve to see him and Oz debating the issues most pertinent to the commonwealth on live television.
Pennsylvania is hardly the only state where Democrat candidates are seemingly ducking their Republican opponents’ debate challenges. In Arizona, the state’s Democrat candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, Katie Hobbs and Mark Kelly, are both reportedly attempting to create an issue out of existing debate format rules to avoid debating their respective GOP opponents, Kari Lake and Blake Masters.
According to Arizona Central reporter Stacey Barchenger, Hobbs was supposed to RSVP for the [Citizens Clean Elections Commission (AZCCEC)] & [Arizona PBS] gubernatorial debate” on Aug. 26, but “at 5:24 p.m., her campaign manager sent an email to AZCCEC asking for a meeting to discuss changes to the format” before fully committing.
“Asking for changes, Hobbs’ campaign manager Nicole DeMont cited the primary debate among GOP candidates for #AZgov she said ‘turned Arizona into a national laughing stock, and Secretary Hobbs has too much respect for this state and its voters to participate in such an event,’” Barchenger reported in a tweet.
“We would like to find a time to meet to discuss changes to the proposed format that will avoid another circus like the GOP primary debate and will lead to a substantive debate of ideas between the candidates,” DeMont reportedly added.
In the state’s U.S. Senate race, Democrat candidate Mark Kelly has similarly been raising complaints over AZCCEC’s current debate format, with Kelly’s campaign manager reportedly saying in an email to the group that the campaign has “some concerns about the suggested format” after “seeing [the] recent Republican gubernatorial debate.”
Debate organizers have given Hobbs and Kelly a Friday deadline to accept or decline the invitation to the October debate, according to local Arizona reporter Brahm Resnik, who also confirmed that both Lake and Masters have already agreed to participate.
Shawn Fleetwood is a Staff Writer for The Federalist and a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood