Both candidates have taken different tacks since Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner challenged Republican Rep. Greg Walden to a series of debates at the Chief Joseph Days parade Saturday.
McLeod-Skinner’s campaign sent out a press release publicizing three scheduled debates between the candidates in Umatilla, Jackson, and Deschutes counties.
But despite Walden saying he would “look forward” to debating McLeod-Skinner during the parade stop, Walden’s office wouldn’t directly comment on her proposal.
In an email, Walden spokesman Justin Discigil wrote that the 10-term congressman was focused on District 2 issues like wildfire’s impact on air quality and local farms and ranches.
When pressed further, Discigil wrote “there will be a time for that discussion, and right now Greg is focused on other, more immediate matters.”
For her part, McLeod-Skinner said in a previous interview that she believed Walden would honor his word, a sentiment that was further reflected in the invitation she delivered to Walden’s office.
“I truly appreciate your willingness to share a stage with me to discuss the priorities and concerns of the voters of our district,” she wrote.
The Umatilla County debate, sponsored by the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, is slated for Aug. 31.
Nichole van Eikeren, McLeod-Skinner’s campaign director, said the debate dates and locations aren’t set in stone, but the Umatilla County debate would likely take place at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton.
Van Eikeren said the dates were based on the invitations sent out by the debate sponsors, and they weren’t based around Walden’s schedule in the House of Representatives.
A congressional recess runs through the end of August, and even if Walden was unavailable, van Eikeren said McLeod-Skinner’s campaign was willing to reschedule the debate times.
In her invitation, McLeod-Skinner request that at least two of the debates be moderated by local media. She also wants at least one event held in a town hall style where voters could ask questions of the candidates.
In the event that Walden does not attend the debates, van Eikeren said the AAUW showed some interest in allowing McLeod-Skinner to hold an event where she speaks to voters by herself.
Walden has cruised to victory in each of his campaigns since he was first elected to Congress in 1998, often taking more than 70 percent of the vote.
Local election agencies will begin mailing out ballots to voters on Oct. 17. Election Day is Nov. 6.
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