MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Senate candidate Mike Durant rejected three debate dates offered by the Alabama Republican Party, making it increasingly unlikely that the GOP frontrunners will meet on stage before next month’s primary.
Republican Party Chairman John Wahl discussed three possible dates with the three frontrunners for a statewide televised debate. He said Katie Britt and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks agreed. Asked about Durant, Wahl responded, “we were not able to find a date that worked for all three candidates.”
WHNT, one of the stations that would have televised the proposed debate, reported that organizers said Durant declined the debate invitation. An organizer, who was not authorized to discuss the conversations with the campaigns, also told The Associated Press that Durant declined all three possible dates.
The Republican Party had been in discussions since January about a primary debate to be held this month. Durant last week told reporters last week that he was “fine” with a debate after Britt and Brooks accused Durant of ducking them, al.com reported.
“Mike Durant not only is afraid to debate Katie Britt, but now he’s also lying about it,” Britt campaign spokesman Sean Ross said in a statement. “We accepted three separate dates for the Alabama Republican Party/Nexstar debate and were looking forward to Katie showing on stage that she’s the best candidate to defend our Christian conservative values and fight for the America First agenda. Durant, however, declined to accept a single date for a debate.”
The Durant campaign, in an emailed response, said that “we aren’t letting the losing campaigns dictate what happens.”
Former President Donald Trump withdrew his endorsement of Brooks last month. Trump has met with both Britt and Durant but has not made a new endorsement in the hotly contested race.
“The career politicians continue to play political games. We’re going to continue traveling around the state taking our pro-Trump conservative message straight to the voters, just like Coach Tuberville did,” the statement read, referencing now U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville did not debate his opponents in the GOP runoff or general election.
Wahl said the Republican Party had hoped to put together a debate as a resource for primary voters with questions that would be related to the interests and concerns of GOP voters.
“Headed to the final stretch of the primary election, we were hoping to nail down a date that would work for all three candidates,” Wahl said.
The outcome of the May 24 primary will likely decide who fills the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Shelby, who is retiring. The race will go to a June 21 runoff if no candidate gets more than 50% of the initial vote.
“Maybe we can do (a debate) during the runoff, if there is a runoff,” Durant told WTVY on Thursday after a stop in Dothan.