Facing an uphill battle for attention, campaign cash and votes, Democrat Andy Schmookler returned to Roanoke today to complain that U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte is stalling on having a debate that will bring their differences before the 6th District voters.
Schmookler, a writer from Shenandoah County, made a similar tour of the lengthy district in early August that prompted the Goodlatte campaign to announce the incumbent would debate, but after Congress adjourns for the election. The 112th Congress recessed Aug. 5 and resumes work Monday. Congress is scheduled to be in session until Sept. 21, then have “constituent weeks” for five of the six weeks before the Nov. 6 election, according to the House Calendar.
Schmookler said he’s had no communication from the Goodlatte campaign since then except to say that nothing would be scheduled until the end of September when Goodlatte’s schedule clears.
“Mr. Goodlatte hopes to run out the clock, rather than get onto the playing field against his opponent so that voters can see how he plays the game,” Schmookler said before 15 supporters gathered at the Roanoke City Council chambers. “He wants credit for agreeing to debate, without taking the risk of actually debating.”
Goodlatte campaign manager Chris Leavitt responded simply today with the assurance that Goodlatte “will debate his Democratic opponent. He’s done this with every Democratic opponent he’s had in the past.”
Once Congress adjourns for the election, the campaign will work to determine a schedule. The debate could happen in “potentially late September to early October,” Leavitt said.
Schmookler called for several debates in different areas of the district, formats determined by independent groups and making the debates open to broadcast throughout the district.
He linked Goodlatte’s delay to “a comprehensive assault in America today on the foundations of the American democracy.”
“He’s been working his way up the leadership ladder by serving interests whose goals are injurious to the people he’s supposed to represent,” Schmookler said. “If he’s not willing to debate me, it puts a spotlight on the fact that he’s not putting the interest of the voters foremost.”
Leavitt said the Goodlatte campaign has had debate requests from several different organizations and has “expressed the same thing that once Congress adjourns for the elections, we’ll come back to the table and try to determine something at that point.”