Hagan agrees to three debates; Tillis wants more

rschoof@mcclatchydc.comJuly 9, 2014 

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan on Wednesday agreed to take part in three debates with Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis in their race for the U.S. Senate this fall. The Tillis campaign immediately charged that Hagan was hiding from voters and should agree to debate at least six times.

Hagan earlier accepted an invitation for two debates from the N.C. Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation, and on Wednesday accepted a third debate to be hosted by the League of Women Voters and WECT-TV in Wilmington.

In a letter to the Tillis campaign, Hagan’s debate liaison, Jim Phillips, said Hagan determined that three debates would reach a statewide audience and “cover a range of issues important to North Carolinians.”

He wrote that that the broadcasters group and the LWV had a history of hosting successful debates. In 2010, when U.S. Sen. Richard Burr ran against Democrat Elaine Marshall, the two candidates took part in three debates that were hosted by the same two groups, he added.

Tillis’ campaign manager Jordan Shaw said in a statement that it was “totally unacceptable” for Hagan to participate in only three debates and called it a “cynical effort to limit the opportunities North Carolinians can hear from their Senate candidates.”

Tillis originally had agreed to two debates earlier this year, but ultimately agreed to three debates, Weiner said.

Later he called for 10 debates; Shaw said six was a compromise.

Three debates is the same number that Tillis participated in during the GOP primary. He missed several conservative and Republican forums that the other Republican candidates attended during the primary, and at one point said he would not attend a debate hosted by WRAL because of a prior engagement. He later rearranged his schedule to participate.

“These debates will cover a range of issues and reach voters all across the state, which has always been the goal,” Weiner said. “The accusations from the Tillis campaign are laughable coming from a politician who took heat from his own party for ducking debates and is now hiding his positions on key issues.”

The Tillis campaign said Hagan rejected a debate that would have been hosted by WGHP-TV and The Greensboro News & Record and The Winston-Salem Journal. Hagan lives in Greensboro.

Another potential host was AARP. Shaw said Hagan didn’t want to discuss her support for the Affordable Care Act.

The Tillis campaign said other potential debates would have been hosted by the North Carolina Medical Society, Time Warner Cable News North Carolina, WLOS-TV in Asheville and the North Carolina Bankers Association.

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