HELENA — Republican Matt Rosendale won’t participate in a debate against Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester because it was scheduled on Father’s Day, his campaign spokesman said Monday.
Sunday’s debate in Whitefish was to be sponsored by the Montana Broadcasters’ Association. Rosendale spokesman Shane Scanlon said the debate was scheduled and organized without any input or agreement from the Rosendale campaign.
“We didn’t agree to attend since Matt is spending the day with his wife and sons, and he’s not moving that around nor should he,” Scanlon said.
The debate would have been the first between Tester and Rosendale after the state auditor won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in last week’s primary.
KECI-TV reported that Rosendale told the television station last week that he planned to attend the Whitefish debate.
Dewey Bruce, the president and CEO of the broadcasters’ association, said he personally informed Rosendale’s campaign and the other three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate a month and a half ago of the date and location of the debate.
The Rosendale campaign’s response at the time was positive, though he didn’t commit, Bruce said.
“If they weren’t going to do it, I’m surprised they wouldn’t have told me last week,” Bruce said.
Rosendale campaign officials proposed that he and Tester meet for five debates before the Nov. 6 election, but did not propose specific dates or locations. Two of the proposed debates would be in the fall that in the past have been hosted by the Montana Television Network and Montana PBS.
Tester spokesman Chris Meagher accused Rosendale of bailing out at the last minute and ducking voters.
Tester still plans to go to Whitefish, where he will address the broadcasters’ association at its annual meeting. Bruce said the group hasn’t decided on a format yet.
Neither Libertarian Party candidate Rick Breckinridge nor Green Party candidate Steve Kelly was invited to the debate because they did not meet the broadcast association’s criteria for participation, Bruce said.