King says no to debating Campbell

Bret Hayworth of The Sioux City Journal has the story.  Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron) will not debate Matt Campbell of Manning, the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s fifth congressional district.  Campbell confronted King at an event in Sioux City, asking if he’d debate.  King told Campbell: “You have not earned it.”

A check of King’s Twitter account shows he has posted nothing about the episode.  His last tweet was last Tuesday. UPDATE:  King issued a brief statement late this afternoon:

King Statement:

“I have long said I will debate if my opponent develops an issues based campaign.  Clearly he has not and his most recent ‘fraternity prank’ at Western Iowa Tech Community College is conclusive.  Any discussion in favor of a debate is therefore concluded.  There will be no debate.  I will continue to take my message to Iowans and make myself available to them for an honest and open exchange of opinions.”

Here’s a news release from Campbell’s campaign.

Tea Party member says Steve King should debate Campbell –King looks to avoid formal debate for 8th year in office
[SIOUX CITY, IA]—Matt Campbell earlier today asked Steve King at a town hall meeting at Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City whether he intends to participate in a live television debate for the first time since being elected to Congress.  Steve King has never formally debated an opponent since being elected and says Campbell has not “earned the right.”  Campbell is the Democratic nominee from Manning, Iowa who won a competitive June 8th primary by a convincing 76% to 24% margin.

Campbell is the son of five generations of Iowa farmers, the grandson of two World War II veterans and was a former four-state regional lead of international tax at the 10th largest accounting firm in the U.S.  Campbell holds numerous endorsements for the position including from Republican members of Steve King’s own party–former Lieutenant Governor Art Neu and Matt Walsh, mayor pro tem of Council Bluffs.

Joyce Schulte, the 2002 and 2004 Democratic nominee for Iowa’s 5th District says, “Matt Campbell is imminently more qualified for the position than Steve King.”

Campbell says, “Steve King has never held himself accountable to the voters of Iowa in eight years and needs to fulfill his responsibility to the Democratic process.  Steve King is playing games when in reality he’s the one not respecting the process.  Even a Tea Party member of the audience agreed King should debate me.”

“I cordially introduced myself to Steve King in Storm Lake as King indicates I should have and since then King has ignored letters and phone calls from my office to discuss his participation in a formal debate focused on the issues facing the country,” Campbell says.  “It’s been 8 years, and it’s high time he fulfills his responsibility to voters.” 

Campbell last week accepted an invitation to participate in a live debate on KTIV-Channel 4 News in Sioux City on October 23rd, 7pm.

King charges that Campbell is not focused on the issues.  Campbell responds, “Anyone can visit my website at to see that I’m focused on the issues.  I’ve noted how King wants to raise the social security full retirement age to age 70 or reduce benefits and how King doesn’t want to pursue millions of dollars in international criminal tax evasion after the UBS banking scandal saying that it would ‘squeeze the rich.’”

While a review of a Campbell’s website substantiates that Campbell has a number of issue statements, Campbell also has issued press releases on King’s extremist statements.

Campbell says, “I’m focused on good job development and on issues that will move Iowa forward, but I’ve called-out King when he’s made extremist statements such as referring to Democrats as being like Pontius Pilate for taking up immigration reform, for King falsely charging in Red Oak, Iowa that the President is a Muslim Marxist and for King empathizing with the suicide bomber in Austin, Texas earlier this year.”

Campbell indicates, “It’s not about me and it’s not about him.  It’s about what’s best for Iowa and America moving forward, and Steve King should be willing to respect the process to have a formal discussion of the issues when we have men and women in harm’s way sacrificing far more.”

Ambassador Charles Manatt, former Democratic National Party chairman and former President Clinton Presidential campaign co-chairman is hosting an event for Campbell’s campaign in Audubon, Iowa on Tuesday, August 31st and Congressman Bruce Braley will appear with Matt at events in early September.

A news release from the Iowa Democratic Party attacks King:

DES MOINES – Republican Congressman Steve King today said he would not debate Democratic challenger Matt Campbell. King, who previously claimed Campbell, “hasn’t earned” the right to debate, justified his refusal by saying, “he’s not worthy.”

“The people of the 5th District deserve an open debate between Steve King and Matt Campbell. They have earned the right to hear from both candidates in a fair and public setting and Steve King is proudly standing in the way of that,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky. “Surely a four-term Congressman like Steve King is capable of debating the issues, the only question is why he feels his constituents don’t deserve the chance to make an informed decision in this election.”

While King has repeatedly dodged debate requests, when asked again by Matt Campbell today at a town hall in Sioux City he said “no” and went on to argue that debate is not necessary to the political process, saying “I don’t know where that rule is written.” Since taking office in 2003 King has avoided a single, formal debate with his opponents.

“It’s disappointing that Steve King, who never misses an opportunity to comment on an issue, is hiding from a real debate with his opponent. The people of the 5th District deserve better, Matt Campbell will be a strong voice for hard working families across the district” added Dvorsky.

Matt Campbell won the Democratic nomination after a competitive primary earlier this year and has earned the endorsement of prominent figures including U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.