By CHRISTINA CLARK
Debate plans have stalled for two opponents in the upcoming midterm elections for residents of Indiana’s second congressional district, which includes South Bend and Elkhart.
The day following Democratic candidate Mel Hall’s primary election win on May 8, Elizabeth Bennion contacted Hall and incumbent Congresswoman Jackie Walorski’s campaigns to extend letters of invitation to participate in candidate debates. The debates were to be sponsored by the American Democracy Project of IU South Bend and the League of Women Voters chapters in the second congressional district, which have hosted many past debates and candidate forums. Bennion serves in a director capacity for both groups, as well as hosts “Politically Speaking” on WNIT and is an active professor of political science at IU South Bend.
“These events are a part of our effort to help educate voters about the candidates on their November ballots,” the letter from Bennion reads. “We believe it is critical for voters to hear directly from the candidates. We have a long history of hosting free and fair debates for local, state, and national offices.”
Following the invitation, the Hall campaign reached out to the Walorski campaign. The South Bend Tribune published on July 20 that Walorski had accepted Hall’s invitation to debate, but at the time of publication no dates were released.
The invitation from Bennion included multiple dates and locations for each potential debate. Hall originally accepted the invitation to participate in debates, including two with live audiences and one debate in the WNIT studio. Walorski’s campaign has not agreed to participate in the same manner and has asked to work directly with the Hall campaign.
With the November 6 midterm elections quickly approaching, Bennion is still optimistic.
“There is still time to schedule up to three debates. The WNIT studio invitation has been open from the beginning and willing to work with the candidate’s schedules,” she said.
Bennion cites that there is a wide interest in being present at these debates.
“We know these types of debates are very popular and people like to attend in person,” she said. “As an example, the Indiana Debate Commission released tickets for the U.S. Senate debate and they were all gone within three hours of the announcement. So people are eager to attend congressional debates in person.”
With the Walorski campaign declining the offers from Bennion, the future of the debates is unsure.
“Our campaign manager reached out to Walorski’s to begin negotiations regarding the three debates and logistics,” said a Hall campaign source. “Walorski’s campaign manager responded saying they look forward to speaking more with us in the coming weeks.”
“Basically, the ball is in the Walorski campaign’s court and we are waiting to hear more from them,” they said as of August 7.
The Walorski campaign could not be reached for comment on the plans for the agreed upon three debates.