With less than two months before the election, candidates for U.S. House of Representatives Diane Mitsch Bush and Lauren Boebert do not have a debate scheduled.
The La Plata County League of Women Voters invited both candidates to participate in a live forum on Oct. 8. Mitsch Bush has accepted, but Boebert has yet to confirm participation.
Club 20, an organization of communities, businesses, individuals and associations across Western Colorado that aims to speak with a unified voice on issues affecting the Western Slope, hosts a debate each year for Colorado voters.
Mitsch Bush, a Steamboat Springs Democrat, previously said she could not attend the in-person debate because of concerns about COVID-19, so Boebert, a Republican from Rifle, withdrew from the debate as well.
“What’s fascinating to me about this election cycle is that the candidates are unwilling to engage in civil discourse,” Christian Reece, business and civic coalitions executive director for Club 20, said in a phone interview.
The Pueblo Chieftain plans to sponsor a debate between Mitsch Bush and Boebert in early October, but a date has not been confirmed. Boebert initially accepted the invitation, but has since declined.
Caleb Cade, communications director for Mitsch Bush’s campaign, said the campaign has invited Boebert to debate on a different date.
But Laura Carno, communications director for Boebert, said, “We’ve moved on.”
Boebert will continue with campaigning, Carno said, adding, “We’re not going to chase them down.”
“We did the right thing in the beginning and said ‘yes.’”
The Boebert campaign says Mitsch Bush refused to attend the Chieftain debate, but Cade said this is not the case.
“We would like to have a debate,” Cade said. Mitsch Bush hopes to discuss health care, public lands and jobs in a debate setting with Boebert, the communications director said.
Mitsch Bush is “certainly open to having a debate,” Cade said.
For Reece, the “hide-and-seek” is unfortunate. “Voters deserve to hear policy-based conversations,” he said.
The Club 20 debate allows voters in Western Colorado to submit policy questions and hear unscripted answers, Carno said, because questions are not shared with participants beforehand.
“I am the only one that sees the questions,” Reece said. But without debates, voters only get snippets of prerecorded campaign ads.
The Club 20 debate also allows candidates to question their opponent, “more of a fact-finding mission” than what is revealed through rallies and campaign ads, Reece said.
“There seems to be concerns from campaigns that the candidate will say something to give another candidate ammunition” during a debate, Reece said. “But it is disrespectful to voters to not engage properly.”
Karen Sheek with the Montezuma County League of Women Voters said local chapters hope Boebert decides to participate in their forum.
“We value and promote providing voters with the information they need to make an informed choice,” Sheek said. “There’s so much disinformation out there, and candidates’ views are often skewed by the opposition.”
A debate stage is a place to present positions that can be challenged and improved, Sheek said.
Upcoming candidate eventsIn the meantime, Boebert plans to visit supporters. Mitsch Bush plans several virtual town hall meetings.
Boebert plans to travel to Grand Junction and Montrose on Sept. 7 to raise money, to visit the Remembering Our Fallen memorial traveling through Grand Junction and to speak at the Elks Lodge in Montrose, Carno said.
On Sept. 15, the restaurant owner will be in Durango to speak at the Southwest Republican Women’s lunch.
Carno said Mitsch Bush’s events are virtual because she doesn’t want to be out in public. Her communications director said the online town halls lower the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Her campaign plans several town hall meetings with the former state legislator via Zoom beginning next week and has invested $1.8 million in fall television ads across the 3rd Congressional District.