Originally Published: October 20, 2010 10:02 p.m.
It looked like Arizona's 1st Congressional District candidates had finally agreed on at least one debate, but Republican challenger Paul Gosar has backed out of a televised debate that was scheduled to take place today.
KAET-TV producer David Majure told The Daily Courier Tuesday that both Gosar and U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick agreed by Sept. 22 to participate in a debate on PBS Channel 8's "Horizon" KAET-TV show tonight in Phoenix. The show has aired numerous candidate debates that are available free on its website.
But late last Friday, Gosar's staff sent Majure an e-mail saying they were canceling. When Majure called for an explanation this week, he said a Gosar staff member told him that Gosar was attending a fundraiser instead.
Gosar's campaign has not responded to phone calls from The Daily Courier Tuesday and Wednesday seeking comment on the issue.
A Wednesday press release from Kirkpatrick charged that Gosar is attending a Flagstaff fundraiser today where host Bryan Shanahan has promised to open a $200 bottle of Bordeaux if anyone contributes the maximum requested $2,400 donation.
"He thinks his time is better spent drinking $200 bottles of wine with donors than answering to the voters who make $630 a week," Kirkpatrick campaign manager Carmen Gallus charged in the press release.
The Arizona Daily Sun newspaper in Flagstaff quoted Gosar's campaign manager J.P. Twist Wednesday saying the Channel 8 debate was "basically six hours wasted of driving when we're talking a little over one week out from the election." The general election is Nov. 2.
Kirkpatrick first challenged Gosar to a series of five neutral-ground debates on Aug. 25, just one day after Gosar won the Republican nomination in the primary election. She proposed that one be televised, with the remaining four to be live throughout the huge rural district.
At that time, Gosar's campaign manager told The Daily Courier that Gosar would participate in debates, but it was too early to say how many and when.
Then on Oct. 5 Gosar told The Daily Courier he still wants to debate Kirkpatrick as long as it's a town hall format in her congressional district, not a televised debate in Phoenix.
An ABC news story that ran Oct. 14 quotes Gosar offering a different opinion.
"I'd love to debate, but here's the scenario: Our district was made intentionally to be a rural district," the ABC News story quotes Gosar saying. "We don't need to debate somewhere in an isolated area where Ms. Kirkpatrick can define the questions, isolate herself, and not have to be accountable to her constituents. If we're in a debate, bring it on."
Kirkpatrick says Gosar never responded directly to her request to participate in the four live debates, including one in Yavapai County.
Her campaign said Gosar also backed out of an Oct. 4 Channel 3 TV appearance after learning Kirkpatrick would be there, didn't attend an Oct. 4 candidate forum sponsored by the Arizona Business and Professional Women in Casa Grande, and declined to join her at Wednesday night's Gila Community College candidate forum in Globe.
"Paul Gosar is dodging debates because he realizes that the more people learn about his frightening views, the more they will unite behind Ann Kirkpatrick," the press release from her campaign charged Wednesday.
Gosar also cancelled his attendance at a Sept. 3 Arizona Republic newspaper editorial board meeting that both candidates were scheduled to attend, according to the Republic.
He cancelled two Daily Courier interviews but showed up the third time.
Gosar has been running a TV ad criticizing Kirkpatrick for walking out of an event in Holbrook in August 2009.
A White Mountain Independent newspaper story at the time said Kirkpatrick "abruptly walked out of a scheduled event...after people became upset that she wasn't addressing the crowd as a whole."
Kirkpatrick advertised the event as a "Chat with Ann" where she would speak one-on-one with citizens at a local grocery store. But a crowd of about 50 people wanted a town hall style discussion.
"The crowd kept getting in the way of shoppers entering and leaving the store," Navajo County Republican Committee Chair Jeff Lineberry told the White Mountain Independent. Kirkpatrick recently told The Daily Courier that's why she left.
She cancelled appearances in Winslow later that day, too.
Gosar's campaign has set up a website with the theme "Where is Ann Kirkpatrick?" that features a video of her walking out of the Holbrook grocery store. The website encourages readers to "send us your sighting."
He told The Daily Courier on Oct. 5 that "Mrs. Kirkpatrick consistently ran out on her constituency."
A Wednesday press release from Kirkpatrick said she participated in 22 debates or forums when first running for the CD1 seat in 2008.
The press release said she also has participated in four town halls throughout the district and 14 "tele-town halls" on the phone since being elected.
Early this month, she accepted an invitation to a Yavapai Tea Party forum in Prescott and fielded Tea Party questions alongside Gosar.