Paula Bradshaw, the Green Party candidate in the 12th Congressional District race, is criticizing one of her opponents, state Rep. Mike Bost, for being too busy to commit to a third debate before the Nov. 4 election.
Bradshaw is challenging her other opponent, incumbent Rep. William Enyart, D-Belleville, to debate her anyway.
"I can't believe that (organizers) would allow one man to sabotage something that was basically in place," Bradshaw said. "This is the same Mike Bost who challenged Enyart to 12 debates and now he only accepts two. The hypocrisy boils me."
Bost, a Murphysboro Republican, believes Bradshaw's allegations are misleading because the parties could not agree on a third date.
In June, Bost called on Enyart to participate in 12 public debates -- one in each county that encompasses the 12th District -- starting in July on a day when Congress is not in session.
An Enyart spokesman said at the time that Enyart would participate in several debates organized by media outlets in forums that are more objective than the ones Bost proposed.
Bradshaw, a hospital emergency room nurse from Carbondale, said she expects Enyart to participate in a debate with her even if Bost cannot attend.
Enyart has said he did not want to have a third debate unless all three candidates are present.
"We agreed to a process and Mike Bost isn't honoring that," Enyart's campaign adviser, Jason Bresler, said on Friday.
Bresler said in a statement: "Springfield insider Mike Bost has no answer as to why he thinks we should lower the minimum wage and make thousands of Southern Illinoisans suffer, while at the same he takes a pay raise from taxpayers for $3,100. It is not surprising he is now backing out of every debate possible."
Jim Forbes, director of communications for Bost, replied: "... This is just another example of Beltway Bill trying to distract from his votes in favor of Obamacare, Nancy Pelosi and Washington DC. Mike has fought Springfield politicians at every turn, anyone who says differently, hasn't seen YouTube."
The $3,100 is referring to pay state representatives get because the 2014-15 budget does not include requiring representatives to take 12 furlough days without pay.
Some state representatives volunteered to donate their $3,100.
Jak Tichenor, of WSIU Public Television, one of the debate sponsors, said organizers sent a letter to the candidates on July 22 proposing three dates: Sept. 25, Oct. 8 and Oct. 29.
Tichenor, who will be the moderator for both debates, said organizers asked for the campaigns to respond by Aug. 8 and it was difficult to get confirmation from the Bost and Enyart campaigns.
"We would have loved to have done all three, clearly, but it is something out of our control if a campaign can or cannot do it," Tichenor said. "It's something that comes up from time to time."
Tichenor said he called the campaigns to touch base every week. Enyart's campaign eventually agreed to all three dates but Bost had a conflict on Sept. 25, Tichenor said.
Bost's campaign said they had an appointment with a guest visitor and did not elaborate, Tichenor said.
Tichenor said he spoke to the other sponsors, the Belleville News-Democrat and the Southern Illinoisan, and all agreed it was too late to organize a September debate.
For instance, WSIU's schedule is set for the month with pledge programs and a special PBS series that must air due to a prior agreement.
Tichenor said news sponsors did their best to act in the public's interest.
"The news value of a two-person debate when there are three candidates is not that great," Tichenor said. "An empty chair debate is not something that we do."
Want to go?
The three candidates agreed to two debates:
* From 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 in the auditorium at Lindenwood University-Belleville.
* From 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center.
Information on how to get tickets to the debates will be available closer to the events.
The debate sponsors are the Belleville News-Democrat, WSIU Public Television and the Southern Illinoisan, along with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Lindenwood is a co-sponsor of the Belleville debate, and the Jackson County League of Women Voters is a co-sponsor of the Marion debate.
The debates will be live-streamed at bnd.com, and replayed on the WSIU-HD channel and PBS World Channel.
The replay dates and times for the Marion debate are: 3:30 p.m. Oct. 12 (HD); 11:30 p.m. Oct. 9 (PBS); 10:30 p.m. Oct. 10 (PBS); 9:30 p.m. Oct. 11 (PBS) and 8:30 p.m. Oct. 12 (PBS).
The replay dates and times for the Belleville debate are: 7 p.m. Oct. 30 (HD); 10 p.m. Oct. 30 (PBS); 10 p.m. Oct. 31 (PBS); 9 p.m. Nov. 1 (PBS) and 8 p.m. Nov. 2 (PBS).
The debates will likely be in a similar format to the debates in 2012 when Enyart, Bradshaw and GOP nominee Jason Plummer vied to replace Jerry Costello, who retired after 24 years in office.