Brunner campaign hesitating debates

— Nearly two weeks after calling for debates with his Republican primary opponents, Senate candidate John Brunner’s campaign said they will not be participating in a debate early next month.

KRTS morning radio host McGraw Milhaven is in the process of arranging a debate between the Republican contenders on January 10. Candidates Sarah Steelman and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin will participate, but a Brunner campaign spokesman said the St. Louis businessman will not be participating.

“We’re not going to debate every night for the next nine months,” John Hancock, a spokesman for Brunner, told KMBC. “It’s not in our interest. I don’t think it’s in the voters’ interest.”

Hancock told KMBC he wants to negotiate dates and terms with the other campaigns before committing.

In an interview with PoliticMo Monday morning, Brunner said he is, in fact, ready to debate, but has delegated debate negotiations to his new campaign manager Jon Seaton, and wasn’t aware of specifics.

“We thought instead of all these things going around in the press, [Seaton] took initiative and wrote letters to the other sides and said let’s have the campaign managers sit down and come up with some dates,” Brunner explained. “I’m not aware of what the issues are, but I’m sure we will [debate].”

Brunner said he feels that he and his opponents are politically “heading toward the same goal line,” but that the will be contrast in terms of background and experience.

“The real debate is going to be with Claire McCaskill and myself. That’s the one to watch,” he added.

Steelman, who called for debates days after Brunner entered the race, blasted the Brunner campaign’s announcement.

“He was for it before he was against it. Who’s kicking the can down the road now,” asked Steelman in a tweet, tagged, “#channelingjohnkerry.”

Democrats also took the opportunity to jab Brunner, accusing him of “hiding” from discussion about the issues.

“John Brunner has a lot of tough questions to answer about his extreme positions, but unfortunately he’s too scared to tell Missouri voters where he really stands,” said Caitlin Legacki, spokeswoman for the Missouri Democratic Party. “Brunner knows his positions are too extreme for Missouri and that’s why he won’t come out of hiding.”

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