Dissed by Johnny Isakson, his two Senate challengers look to schedule more debates

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U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Jim Barksdale. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)
CORRECTS TO REMOVE SECOND SENTENCE REFERRING TO HIM AS INVESTMENT MANAGER - In this Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, photo, U.S. Senate democratic candidate Jim Barksdale, who is looking to unseat Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., poses for a portrait at Avondale Pizza Cafe in Decatur, Ga. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Jim Barksdale at Avondale Pizza Cafe in Decatur, Ga. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

A week after getting snubbed by Johnny Isakson, the two men challenging the Republican for his U.S. Senate seat are looking to push ahead with several more televised debates by the time November rolls around — with or without the two-term incumbent.

The campaigns of Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley met Wednesday to discuss setting up more debates across the state.

Barksdale previously challenged Isakson to six one-on-one debates in the state’s major media markets: Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, Augusta, Columbus and Albany, and the campaign previously said it received interest from several television stations that wanted to host those matchups. Barksdale’s campaign said it plans to reach back out to those stations in order to see if they’re still interested in hosting but cautioned that plans are still fluid.

With less than 10 weeks until the election, time is ticking. But the additional matchups offer Barksdale and Buckley, who are far less known than the Georgia GOP figurehead they’re challenging, opportunities to build name recognition and get in extra shots against the incumbent, who has focused on his ability to get legislation passed on Capitol Hill in his first campaign ad.

Isakson previously agreed to participate in a single debate with his two opponents before Election Day, the Atlanta Press Club’s Oct. 21 matchup. Barksdale and Buckley have framed that decision as an attempt to keep them, the public and the media in the dark, but Isakson argues that his record is well-known after decades in office and that he’s always made himself accessible to the media.

“I’ve run five times statewide,” Isakson said in an interview yesterday “My job is to promote me and not Jim Barksdale.”

Isakson’s campaign manager Trey Kilpatrick said Isakson has done 231 media interviews this year alone.

“From the best I can tell, Mr. Barksdale has done a grand total of five interviews. It’s up to him to rise to Johnny’s level of accessibility before he can criticize anyone,” said Kilpatrick.

Buckley said he plans to use any debates to highlight Isakson’s voting record, which he said is insufficiently conservative on issues such as government spending, entitlement programs and education.

Isakson “would like to keep the voters in the dark and have them continue to think that he’s a fiscally conservative person who hates debt and votes conservatively, but the opposite is true,” Buckley said in an interview Thursday.

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