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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida U.S. Senate candidates' debate over debates continues

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy

AP / Palm Beach Post

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy

13

September

While U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio have agreed to at least two debates, the U.S. Senate candidates are now squabbling over why their opponent won't commit to the same events they've accepted.

Mutual agreement over more events could potentially increase the number of U.S. Senate debates before Election Day, but it seems the candidates are facing an impasse.

Monday evening, Murphy's campaign released a list of three debates and one candidate forum that the Democratic congressman had agreed to. Rubio, meanwhile, released his own list of six debates for which he'd accepted invitations.

The lists only match-up for two debates: one on Oct. 17 in Orlando and another in Davie on Oct. 26. (See below.) Both events take place after absentee ballots will have already started going out to Florida voters.

By this morning, Murphy, the Democratic challenger, and Rubio, the Republican incumbent, had resumed trading barbs -- accusing each other of not really wanting to debate, because they hadn't accepted the same list of events that their opponent committed to.

Murphy's campaign said Rubio had "laughable excuses," while Rubio's campaign said Murphy was "lying" and "hiding behind his donors."

 


 

For instance, Rubio's campaign questioned the partisan connections of two of Murphy's accepted venues -- a debate sponsored in part by the League of Women Voters and a candidate forum put on by the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches. Officials with both the league and the Forum Club have donated to Democratic candidates and causes, including Murphy.

But Murphy's campaign manager Josh Wolf called it "laughable" for Rubio to now question those event sponsors -- especially since Rubio has spoken to the Forum Club at least three times, including in May. And while the league's and the club's executive boards have Democratic supporters, they also have Republican ones, too.

Murphy's campaign argues Rubio was only bluffing when he challenged Murphy to six debates and that he "never really wanted many debates" with Murphy after all.

"Senator Rubio is rejecting a debate and a forum hosted by respected non-partisan organizations where questions will be asked by qualified journalists, young students, and community members," Wolf said in his statement. "His laughable excuses show he always saw debates as a ploy. Patrick welcomed the opportunity to show the voters exactly what the choice is in this election, and it's clear that is exactly what Marco Rubio is afraid of."

But Rubio's campaign retorts that Murphy is the one still dodging debates.

Rubio's accepted invitations include four media-sponsored debates, including two sponsored in part by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, respectively. Murphy's campaign hasn't responded to those invitations.

Rubio has pushed for six debates in all, because that's how many he said were held in 2010, when Rubio first ran for Senate.

"Patrick Murphy should stop lying and agree to the six debates that voters deserve," Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said in a statement. "Instead, he's hiding behind his donors and ducking real debates like he has in every campaign he's ever run."

Neither Murphy nor Rubio debated their primary opponents this summer. While Rubio avoided the issue, Murphy had previously pledged to debate his main primary competitor, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, but then didn't follow through. In Murphy's two previous congressional races, he did debate his opponents but didn't agree to as many debates as his competitors had sought.

When asked why Murphy hadn't responded to the four debate invitations that Rubio had accepted, Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said in a statement: "We worked with many organizations to find dates that worked with our calendar, and are excited to accept three U.S. Senate debates and a forum."

Karp criticized Rubio for wanting "credit in the press for asking for many debates," but then rejecting the league's and the Forum Club's invitations.

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Here are the list of debates that Murphy's and Rubio's campaigns -- as of Monday evening -- said they'd committed to. The ones noted with an * are the two events they've mutually agreed to.

 

RUBIO

-- Oct. 11 debate in St. Petersburg. Sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times, in partnership with Telemundo, Scripps TV stations and three other stations in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville.

-- Oct. 17 debate in Orlando.* Sponsored by WFTV Channel 9, Politico Florida and Cox Media Group.

-- Oct. 26 debate in Davie.* Sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

-- Debate in Miami, date TBD. Sponsored by the Miami Herald and WFOR CBS-4.

-- Debate, date TBD. Sponsored by Univision Network.

-- Debate, date TBD. Sponsored by WESH Channel 2 in Orlando.

 

MURPHY

-- Oct. 17 debate in Orlando.* Sponsored by WFTV Channel 9, Politico Florida and Cox Media Group.

-- Oct. 26 debate in Davie.* Sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.

-- Debate in Tampa, date TBD. Sponsored by League of Women Voters, Telemundo and WFLA News Channel 8.

-- Nov. 2 candidate forum in West Palm Beach. Sponsored by the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches.

 

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 11:00am]

    

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