First District challenger contests Walz debate plan

Post-Bulletin - How many debates are enough?

That’s the question First District congressional candidates are sparring over. DFL Congressman Tim Walz’s campaign has announced the congressman will participate in three debates — one in Mankato, one in Winona and one on TV in Rochester. His opponent, Blue Earth Republican Jim Hagedorn, argues that’s not enough. He is challenging Walz to join in nine debates and forums ahead of the November election.

In particular, Hagedorn said it is “ridiculous” not to have at least an hour-long debate in Rochester that is open to the public. The current proposal includes a debate at KAAL-TV’s studio that would air on TV. Once commercials are factored into the 30-minute debate, Hagedorn said the candidates’ time would be extremely limited.

“To say that effectively 18 minutes on KAAL is a debate for the city of Rochester is kind of ridiculous,” Hagedorn said.

He accused the congressman of being afraid to talk about issues such as terrorism, refugee resettlement and Obamacare in front of a Rochester crowd.

Walz’s Campaign Manager Terry Morrow rejects those criticisms. He notes that the congressman will have participated in four debates and forums this election season, when you add in August’s Farmfest forum. By comparison, there are only 3 presidential debates. He said the 1st District has more debates scheduled than any other congressional district. Lastly, he said the format for the KAAL-TV debate is still being negotiated.

“Each campaign season, many more invitations are offered than can be accepted. We are grateful to all who arrange these forums and we look forward to a robust debate,” Morrow said in an emailed statement.

The Mankato debate will be Oct. 3 sponsored by Greater Mankato Growth. The League of Women Voters Winona is sponsoring a debate at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 at Winona City Hall. The KAAL-TV debate in studio will be Oct. 5.

Clinton vs. Trump

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will go head-to-head in tonight’s first presidential debate. The debate starts at 8 p.m. and will be moderated by Lester Holt of NBC. Republican Party of Olmsted County Chairman Aaron Miller is predicting plenty of people will opt to tune in.

“Even for people that are only casual political wonks, this is going to be must-see TV,” he said.

Miller said the local Republican party doesn't have a debate watching party planned. Local Democrats are planning a gathering at the DFL Headquarters in Rochester, according to Senate District 26 DFL Chairwoman Deb Staley. People are invited to start showing up at 7:30 p.m. at the headquarters, 1500 1st Ave. NE

Staley added, “The more the merrier.”

Still want more debates?

Can’t get enough of candidates squaring off? Then make sure to add this next event to your calendar. Rochester area legislative candidates will face off at a forum on Thursday night in the Rochester Public Library Auditorium sponsored by the Rochester NAACP, Rochester Muslim Community Circle, Rochester 4 Justice and First Unitarian Universalist Church.

From 7:15 to 8 p.m., candidates in Senate District 25, House District 25A and House District 25B will answer questions. So far, only three of the six candidates have RSVP’d. Those planning to participate are GOP Rep. Duane Quam and his DFL rival Linda Wallbruch. DFLer Duane Sauke also intends to go.

The second round of debates that evening will run from 8 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. and feature candidates running for Senate District 26, House District 26A and House District 26B. Candidates who have registered so far are GOP Sen. Carla Nelson and her DFL rival Rich Wright, DFL Rep. Tina Liebling and Republican Rep. Nels Pierson.