The campaign for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor said last week that it had not rejected any topics from being included in the only debate agreed to so far by the senator and his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton. But an email obtained by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday showed that Pryor's campaign had rejected the inclusion of foreign policy in the debate sponsored by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.
The email between the debate moderator and Cotton's spokesman, David Ray, outlined a conversation with Pryor's campaign.
"Pryor folks rejected adding 'foreign policy' to the list of topics for the Fayetteville Chamber debate. After receiving the news from Steve Clark (who agreed with me that it was not an out-of-line request), I met with Pryor folks yesterday afternoon. They basically feel that they've done all the negotiating they plan on doing with this debate and that there are plenty of topics under the expanded format," wrote moderator Roby Brock, who is also the executive editor of the news organization Talk Business.
Brock confirmed the content of the email Tuesday but declined to comment.
Ray sent out a news release last week saying Cotton had agreed to the KATV debate and that Pryor had refused a request to debate foreign policy matters.
"I think the content of the email speaks for itself," Ray said.
Clark, the chief executive officer and president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, confirmed Tuesday that the chamber was willing to consider including foreign policy as an additional topic, but negotiations stopped when the Pryor campaign objected.
The hour-long debate is to take place Oct. 14 in the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville's campus auditorium. The debate is to be broadcast on KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock; KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro; and KHBS/KHOG, Channel 40/29, in Northwest Arkansas.
"We agreed at the chamber that it would be a campaign on three subjects. Cotton's people said, 'How about foreign affairs?' And the Pryor folks said, 'We want what you said first, and that's all we want,'" Clark said. "We said, 'This is what we offered, and we'll stick to it.' A lot of this is semantics because there are a lot of issues that fall under those three topics."
Erik Dorey, Pryor's deputy campaign manager who spoke to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week, said Tuesday that he stood by his statements last week that the chamber decided the topics -- education, transportation and job creation/economic development -- in its original debate proposal.
He said organizers never put an amended debate topic proposal in writing that included foreign policy.
"Debate negotiations are always a messy process, but at the end of the day, Arkansans will have the opportunity to hear these candidates discuss important issues both foreign and domestic," Dorey said. "Mark Pryor is eager to debate and discuss important matters of foreign policy when these candidates meet to debate in Conway."
Cotton's campaign has not agreed to a second debate, which would take place on Oct. 13 and air on AETN, the state's public television network. Ray said Tuesday that the campaign is still waiting on answers to questions about the format posed last week.
The two candidates have haggled over formats, topics and schedules for months, both accusing the other of dodging the opportunity to debate.
Ray said he didn't want to focus on the email Tuesday but would rather focus on the need for a substantive debate on foreign policy.
"The threats America faces are real and growing more dangerous each day. There's a good reason Sen. Pryor is so desperate to avoid talking about his record on foreign policy," Ray said Tuesday. "It's because he has rubber-stamped every aspect of the Obama agenda. The fact is we can no longer trust Sen. Pryor to stand up for Arkansas in the U.S. Senate. He just goes along with whatever President Obama wants. We need a new independent voice for Arkansas."
Dorey said the Fayetteville debate negotiations were not an indication of Pryor's willingness to discuss foreign policy.
"The debate in Fayetteville will keep the originally proposed focus on domestic policy issues, but that doesn't change Mark Pryor's eagerness to hear Congressman Cotton explain, for example, why he wanted to spend a billion dollars of taxpayer money a month to establish a no-fly zone in the Middle East," Dorey said.
A section on 09/17/2014