Sowers campaign proposes more debates in 8th District race

Friday, August 6, 2010

A day after U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson challenged 8th District candidates to a series of debates, Democratic challenger Tommy Sowers doubled the request.

Both campaigns have proposed a set of three debates, but only the two third-party candidates, Libertarian candidate Rick Vandeven of Chaffee and independent Larry Bill of Jackson, quickly agreed to all six matchups.

On Wednesday, Emerson invited candidates to take part in a series of October debates across the district. She proposed debates Oct. 11, 13 and 17 in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff and Rolla.

Thursday, the Sowers campaign proposed three additional debates in Kennett, St. Francois County and West Plains.

"We believe that as many voters as possible throughout the Eighth District should have the opportunity to hear from the candidates and have their questions answered on the issues they care about," said Sowers campaign manager Jonathan Feifs, in a statement announcing the debates.

Sowers said dates, topics and the format are negotiable.

"We think that this should be a conversation amongst the candidates," he said. Vandeven and Bill agreed to the new debates, according to the campaign.

The VFW in Kennett and Mineral Area College in Park Hills have offered to host debates. The West Plains campus of Missouri State University is a possible location for the third debate, Sowers said.

In recent elections, Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican, has faced weak opponents and has not debated.

In a statement, Emerson said she is looking forward to the debates she proposed.

"In addition to these three opportunities to bring all four candidates together, I have a very active schedule set for October and I look forward to continuing the discussion with Missourians across our district about how we can stop the trends of big-spending big government and dangerous erosions to individual liberties and personal freedoms," she said.

In a statement e-mailed Thursday night, Emerson said she agreed to a debate at Mineral Area College on Oct. 18 if the date works for other candidates.

The Sowers campaign said Wednesday it would prefer a looser debate schedule than the one proposed by the Emerson campaign. The four candidates have already agreed to debate Oct. 11 at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus. Sowers said he wants to negotiate the dates of the debates in Poplar Bluff and Rolla because they conflict with church schedules. Three Rivers Community College and the University of Missouri Science and Technology have agreed to host those debates.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

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