Florida statewide Democrats complain that their GOP opponents reluctant to debate

And in the race for Chief Financial Officer, Democrat Loranne Ausley says that her GOP opponent, state Senator Jeff Atwater, is ducking out of the one and only debate scheduled months ago between the two candidates, a date that Ausley spokesman Kevin Cade said was confirmed by their office back in June.

So why isn't Atwater participating in the October 5 debate?

The Palm Beach Post reports that a spokesman for Atwater, Brian Hughes, wrote up a "lengthy explanation," all to say simply that the CFO candidate wants nothing to do with a debate with the feisty Democrat next month:

“The schedule in these final weeks of the campaign is packed with candidate forums, grassroots organizing, and travel around the state. There are countless requests of Jeff’s time and we simply can’t be everywhere all the time.

Everyday, in communities that stretch from the Panhandle to the Keys,

Jeff Atwater is talking to Floridians and sharing his plans to reduce

the burden of government on small business owners, fight the fraud and

waste that squander taxpayer dollars, and champion the entrepreneurial

spirit that will grow our economy and create jobs."

These stories by themselves don't mean necessarily anything.  Traditionally it's the front runner in a race, sometimes the incumbent, who plays hard to get when it comes to engaging in a debate.

But that's not the situation here.  Rick Scott plainly doesn't like to debate, and judging by his one performance that most people saw, against Bill McCollum in August at Fox-13 in Tampa, he ain't that good at it. But it obviously didn't affect the final vote.

But he's committed to three debates.  We have no idea how solid Alex Sink is, since she hasn't engaged in any debates herself in 2010, and we don't remember if she engaged in any debates when she opposed Tom Lee for CFO in 2006.

In Gelber's case, the Democrat is known by all sides for having a pretty fierce intellect and being a formidable debater, and he had plenty of opportunities to hone his skills in his competitive race (well, until election day anyway) against Dave Aronberg.

We've no idea why Atwater would rather spend another day on the campaign stump vs. engaging in a debate where he could articulate his message on statewide television, but we're sure he has his reasons.

Although a bit confusing about who accepted first, it's now official that Rick Scott and Alex Sink will debate at least three times this election season, with the last being a nationally broadcast event to be held on the USF campus in Tampa on CNN on October 25.

The Scott camp announced today in a press release that the Sink campaign had "finally" agreed to the debate at USF that Scott accepted last week, and added this gratuitous shot:

The Scott campaign is glad the Sink campaign finally agreed to this statewide debate, moderated by respected journalist John King of CNN. It was curious that the Sink tried to hold out for a debate on NBC, moderated by former Democrat staffer and Obama ‘sends-a-thrill-up-my-leg’ opinion maker Chris Matthews.

That followed Team Sink spokeswoman Kyra Jennings needling Scott for not agreeing to more debates earlier in the day:

"While we pushed Rick Scott to stop hiding from the people of Florida and participate in five statewide televised debates, it seems clear he is not going to meet that challenge."

As those candidates work it out, another Democrat, Attorney General candidate Dan Gelber, is accusing GOP rival Pam Bondi of ducking out of debates after a proposed engagement at the University of Florida on October 5 was canceled with Bondi not agreeing to participate.

Gelber, like Sink, has called for a larger number of debates than the Republican.  He's asked for six, Bondi says she'll appear in two.  It's not an uncharacteristic declaration from the confident state legislator from Miami Beach, who challenged his Democratic opponent Dave Aronberg to nine debates before last month's primary race.

In a press release, the Gelber team introduced the idea of Bondi acting in a contradictory fashion by providing a quote from the former Hillsborough Prosecutor issued when she was challenging her GOP primary opponents before last month's primary.

In a June 24 letter to her Republican primary opponents, Pam Bondi wrote, “As we draw closer to the primary election, it is important that the voters receive as much information as possible to make an informed decision…To that end, I write to you today to propose that we engage in several formal debates…a series of debates will give Republican primary voters a much-needed opportunity to learn about our different backgrounds and vision for Florida.”

The Bondi team said two debates should be plenty for the Florida public.  Spokeswoman Sandi Copes said, "Pam and her opponent have had multiple opportunities to present their very differing positions on many issues, including recently debating their positions on the fed[eral] health care law on national TV and this past week going back to back on Political Connections and Bay News 9."

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