Controversy over debates is developing in North Carolina’s Senate contest between GOP incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis and Democrat challenger Cal Cunningham. Sen. Tillis originally challenged his eventual Democratic opponent, during the primary contest, to five debates leading up to November’s election. Even before Cunningham clinched the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Tillis in November, he agreed to the GOP incumbent’s challenge:
Bring it on, Thom. https://t.co/Ux79yR49ef— Cal Cunningham (@CalforNC) January 15, 2020
Sen. Tillis has accepted four debate invitations from broadcast networks thus far, but Cunningham appears to be walking back his previous rhetoric. While his campaign contends that Cunningham will debate Sen. Tillis as promised, he has not officially accepted invitations from broadcast networks thus far, as Sen. Tillis has. News directors for both WNCN, a Nexstar affiliate, and Spectrum News told Townhall via email that they have not yet received a debate acceptance from the Cunningham campaign.
If Cunningham intends to keep his promise to participate in five debates against the GOP incumbent, it is unclear why his campaign has not accepted the invitations, which welcome formatting changes to reasonably accommodate both parties.
After accepting the invitation from Spectrum News on Monday, marking his fourth agreed-to debate, Sen. Tillis said that he looks forward to defending his record:
“A good leader should have the courage to stand in front of the people he wishes to represent to defend his record and vision for the future, and I’m willing to do so as many times as possible,” the GOP incumbent said. “I’m excited that another organization has stepped up to provide North Carolinians with an opportunity for my opponent and I to debate the critical issues facing our state and nation.”
This Senate contest is nationally-watched and viewed as one of the most competitive races included in the battle for the Senate majority in November. Cunningham was hand-picked by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in hopes of unseating Sen. Tillis. RealClearPolitics’ average shows the race as a virtual dead-heat, and the Cook Political Report rates the contest as a toss-up.