In NC Senate campaign, Deborah Ross makes a renewed push for debates

Deborah Ross and Sen. Richard Burr.
Deborah Ross and Sen. Richard Burr.

Citing a one-week shift in early voting, Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross made a renewed push Wednesday to debate incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

A federal appeals court ruling Friday, which struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law, also restored a week of early voting. That means voters will be able to cast ballots as soon as Oct. 20.

In June, Ross challenged Burr to a series of four debates hosted by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, Time Warner Cable News, ABC11 and WECT-TV of Wilmington.

Burr’s campaign agreed to enter negotiations with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters on the terms for a debate.

Paul Shumaker, a spokesman for Burr’s campaign, said Wednesday that negotiations are still in progress.

“They’re still working out the details,” Shumaker said.

Ross sent a letter to Burr on Wednesday stressing the importance of voters hearing directly from the candidates before heading to the polls.

“Too often in campaigns like this, the airwaves will become crowded with political ads. It’s important that voters hear where we stand on the issues important to them,” Ross said.

Burr’s campaign spokesman Jesse Hunt said Ross’ letter is a strategy to distract from other issues.

“We find Deborah Ross’ actions (Wednesday) to be nothing more than political gamesmanship given the campaigns sat down with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters last week for negotiations,” Hunt said. “This undermines the spirit of those discussions, and raises serious questions and doubts about the candidate’s campaign negotiating team.”

Burr’s campaign spokesman Alex Johnson told the (Raleigh) News & Observer in June that the campaign would not accept other debate invitations until negotiations with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters are completed.

“The N.C. Broadcasters Association offers the largest viewership in North Carolina, and we want to ensure we have a forum that will reach all parts of North Carolina,” Johnson said.

During the U.S. Senate primary race, Ross debated her three Democratic rivals once on WRAL but turned down an invitation from Time Warner Cable News. Burr did not debate his Republican opponents.

Rachel Herzog: 704-358-5358; @rachel_herzog