A planned debate of the candidates in the Republican Run Off Election for U.S. Senate is off, after Tommy Tuberville Monday decided not to participate.
WKRG and four other Nexstar Broadcasting sister stations in Alabama had arranged for the debate prior to the Primary Election last week. Tuberville, Jeff Sessions, and Bradley Byrne all agreed to take part, if they advanced to a run off.
“A large part of the state would have seen it. It would have been a good forum,” said Sessions Monday evening. “We don’t know anything about where (Tuberville) comes from. So this is an important opportunity for us to find out where he stands on the issues. It’s not just about games and the ability to trap somebody in a debate. That’s not the most important thing. We know so little about Tommy Tuberville that I think it’s important to have an opportunity for him to stand up and say what he believes.”
Tuberville won the primary with 33.4-percent of the vote, to Sessions’ 31.7-percent. A poll conducted last Thursday shows Tuberville leading Sessions by about 7-percentage points in the run off.
Typically, front-runners have less to gain from a debate.
Tuberville’s campaign manager Paul Shashy released this statement: “Jeff Sessions has refused to debate every opponent he has faced since 2002, but now that he is running behind… he has had a sudden change of heart. It is too late…”
Mobile-based political consultant and News 5 contributor Jon Gray says he thinks neither candidate wants to debate.
“Jeff Sessions doesn’t want to answer a bunch of questions about his relationship with Donald Trump,” Gray said. “And Tommy Tuberville doesn’t want to answer a bunch of questions where he’ll be graded on his understanding of the issues.”
Alabama’s Run Off Election takes place March 31. The Tuberville-Sessions winner will take on Democratic incumbent Doug Jones in November.
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