Democrats-Only Debate

By: Katie Heinz
By: Katie Heinz

The midterm election is just two weeks away, and about 100 people went to South Middle School in Eau Claire tonight to listen to a debate between some of the area's political candidates.

But something was missing -- the Republican candidates.

State Senators Ron Brown and Dave Zien, and Representatives Rob Kreibich and Terry Moulton signed a letter sent late last week to alert the secretary of one of the groups organizing tonight's debate that they would not be attending.

The letter stated the candidates would not attend the debate due to conflicting events.

An organizer says the Republicans indicated they would participate during conversations about details of the event.

The letter also detailed other concerns regarding the debate's format and the organizers' partiality.

Four non-partisan women's organizations sponsored the debate.

"These are groups that are non-partisan, they make an outstanding effort to make it very fair," said Margot Bouchard, president of the American Association of University Women. "You can tell from the rules our intention is to be fair."

Several people who attended the debate were disappointed to not hear from both sides.

"I came here to hear the candidates. I've been looking forward to the forum for quite a while, because I thought it was going to be quite comprehensive and hear from candidates of both parties," said Eau Claire Resident Mildred Larson. "I was very disappointed to learn the Republicans are not coming."

A spokeswoman for Zien's campaign says the senator is trying to strike a balance between all the different debates and forums.

Democratic candidate Pat Kreitlow released a statement accusing the incumbents of being afraid to debate the issues.

UW-Eau Claire Political Science Professor Geoff Peterson says this is the first time candidates have backed out of a debate as a group during this election cycle.

"I think clearly what they're trying to do is make some kind of statement," Peterson said. "Backing out and all of the sudden having conflicts strikes me as excuse-making to some degree, but I think clearly they're trying to make a statement."

Just to let you in on how much statewide attention is focused right here, is currently listing both the 23rd District race between Pat Kreitlow and Dave Zien, and the 31st District race between Ron Brown and Kathleen Vinehout as dead heats.

These races are two of just four in the state with this status.

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