External Link: Savannah Morning News
Citing a “family commitment,” Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow is skipping Sunday’s televised debate with Republican Ray McKinney.
The Atlanta event, sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, is due to be aired live on Georgia Public Television.
It will be the second debate the Savannah lawmaker has passed over this year; he missed one with his primary opponent, Regina Thomas.
Barrow spokeswoman Jane Brodsky wouldn’t describe the family event other than to say it’s “something he has to attend.”
Brodsky said Barrow didn’t debate Thomas because he had a previously scheduled meeting with constituents.
He is seeking a fourth term in the 12th Congressional District, which includes most of Savannah.
McKinney, who’s not endorsing Barrow, said he deliberately ducked both debates – which Brodsky denied.
Whatever Barrow’s reasons, veteran incumbents often spurn debates with lesser-known challengers.
“If John Barrow thought missing the debate would do him any harm, he wouldn’t do it,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.
“A seemingly secure incumbent is seldom eager to give his opponent credibility by appearing on the same stage.”
McKinney, a nuclear power project manager from Lyons, acknowledged that.
“He’s a smart politician – I’ll give him credit for that,” McKinney said. “He knows he has high name identification. He doesn’t want to take the risk of having to answer questions.
“He should have to answer to his constituents. Instead, he’s just doing things like mailings, which he can control.”
Thomas, a former state senator, who also is not endorsing Barrow, said she’s not surprised.
“It’s typical Barrow.” she said. “It’s what he’s been doing for … years. He’s taking voters for granted and doesn’t want to answer for his voting record. It’s an insult to the district.”
But Brodsky said Barrow will participate in a forum with McKinney tonight in Milledgeville.
“How can you say he won’t debate or answer questions about his record when he’s going to tonight?” Brodsky asked.
She said the press club, which also sponsored the primary debate, gave Barrow dates that posed schedule conflicts.
“And Atlanta’s a long way away from the 12th District,” she said.
Moreover, she said, McKinney missed a press club debate with his primary runoff foe, Carl Smith of Thunderbolt.
David Cutbirth, McKinney’s spokesman, said the group contacted McKinney just a few days before the event.
“He would have had to miss a fundraiser and other campaign events,” Cutbirth said.
He noted McKinney debated Smith and two other primary opponents July 9, the same day Barrow was invited to face McKinney.
He also said the press club debates are more important than the Milledgeville one because people can watch them live throughout the district.