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Tamar Hallerman

Georgia Senate candidates to meet in only one head-to-head debate before Election Day

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John Coyne, Cheryl Copeland and Jim Barksdale at an Atlanta Press Club debate. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Democrat Jim Barksdale, right, at an Atlanta Press Club debate earlier this year. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

It looks like there will only be one head-to-head debate between the three candidates for Georgia’s Senate seat before voters hit the polls on November 8.

Top campaign officials from Republican Johnny Isakson and Democrat Jim Barksdale’s campaigns met earlier on Wednesday to discuss the debate schedule after the latter challenged the two-term incumbent to six one-on-one matchups across the state of Georgia.

The two camps did not reach a deal on those, and Isakson’s campaign announced the Republican would be participating in only one debate: The Atlanta Press Club’s. That debate will be taped relatively close to the election, on Friday, Oct. 21, and will presumably include all three candidates for the position, including Libertarian Allen Buckley.

The Atlanta Press Club’s format allows for candidates to ask questions of their opponents, which could lead to some fireworks.

Isakson’s campaign put out this statement:

“I feel confident that, in addition to my longstanding record of public service and the 214 times I’ve answered questions from reporters in this year alone, this debate will demonstrate to Georgians my commitment to upholding a commonsense, pro-growth conservative agenda. If my Democrat opponent would like to offer any substantive policy positions that he stands for, I encourage him to follow suit and openly and transparently answer questions from Georgia media as I have always done and will continue to do.”

Barksdale’s Campaign Manger Dave Hoffman said it is “clear” Isakson “is not working for the people of Georgia and he doesn’t want to talk about it.” Hoffman invoked the same rhetoric the Barksdale campaign has used in recent weeks to criticize Isakson’s record on Capitol Hill:

“It’s no surprise that he has voted for bad foreign trade deals that send our jobs away or why he has skipped 71 percent of his Senate Commerce Committee hearings. Where’s Johnny?”

The debate will air on Georgia Public Broadcasting on Oct. 23. Early voting begins six days prior.

This will be Barksdale’s second time participating in an Atlanta Press Club-sponsored debate this year and Buckley and Isakson’s first. The latter opted out of the only televised debate ahead of the GOP primary in May, citing a scheduling conflict and the criminal history of competitor Derrick Grayson, a libertarian-minded challenger who had made some particularly blunt comments about Isakson’s political motivations following his Parkinson’s diagnosis.