Candidates in Utah's U.S. Senate race waged a snippy debate about debates Wednesday, including each campaign calling the other a fibber.
It started when Democrat Sam Granato said Republican Mike Lee is refusing to debate him in settings where the public could ask questions, and is agreeing to too few debates.
In response, Lee's campaign said Granato never requested any debates beyond the four to which they agreed.
Granato's camp said that's false and produced a list of 15 that it says Lee refused.
"Mike Lee won't debate me in public because he's afraid of the tough questions that mainstream Utahns will ask about his extreme views," Granato said in a news release. "Mike Lee thinks he's got this election in the bag. ... He doesn't think he needs to listen to the voters he's too busy measuring the drapes for his office."
Granato complained that Lee has agreed to only four debates on TV or radio. Two have already occurred, with small audiences preselected by television stations KUED and KBYU. Two remain on KSL-TV and KSL radio with no audience at all except for a moderator.
Granato said Republican Gov. Gary Herbert and Democratic challenger Peter Corroon have participated in, or planned, 11 debates or joint appearances where the public could ask questions. He said Lee and Republican Tim Bridgewater had at least nine joint appearances, with five open to the public, during their primary runoff.
Lee spokesman Boyd Matheson said he was surprised at Granato's allegations.
"We set the debates in conjunction with the Granato folks," Matheson said, "and never had a request for any debates other than those on the books."
But, he added, "Mike can generate his own crowds. He can get to people most effectively by what he is doing" in touring the state with speeches, where people may ask him questions. "Sam has a hard time generating any audience."
Granato campaign manager Marla Kennedy said Matheson is wrong. She produced a list of requests for at least 15 joint appearances or debates that she says Lee has declined. They ranged from the Salt Lake Rotary Club to the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"There may be many more," she said. "This is just the list we started keeping a month or so ago."
Senate race debates agreed to so far
R KUED-TV • taped Sept. 16, aired Sept. 20
KBYU-TV • taped Tuesday, airs Friday at 8 p.m.
KSL-TV • "Sunday Edition," taping Oct. 22, airs Oct. 24 at 9 a.m.
KSL Radio • "The Doug Wright Show," live Oct. 28.