Congressional hopeful Tim Krepp has repeatedly called on Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., to participate in a debate before Election Day, so far, to no avail.
The tour guide and historian, running as an independent, faces a steep uphill battle to unseat the 12-term congresswoman who won her seat in 2012 with 88.5 percent of the vote. Despite the challenge, Krepp hopes his message that it's time for a change will resonate with D.C. voters. And one way to relay that message would be in a public debate.
"I felt like we were just kind of being blown off,” Krepp's campaign manager Brian Pate told CQ Roll Call in a Tuesday phone interview. “I’ve never been contacted by the scheduler and it’s been almost four weeks. So I feel like we’re rapidly running out of time to have a debate.” Pate has been contacting the Norton campaign since the beginning of September and was told the campaign's scheduler would contact him at some point to discuss a date. Pate said he spoke with Norton's campaign manager, Jacqueline Pelt, three times over the phone. He said Pelt was cordial and said Norton was very busy with her congressional duties, but they would try to find a time to debate.
"We were trying to fit it in our schedule," Pelt confirmed in a recent phone interview. She emphasized that the scheduler, who juggles congressional and campaign events, is trying to work in a debate. Pelt said, "Nothing’s changed. I have not asked the scheduler to withdraw the request.”
Pelt also said Norton has not rejected the notion of participating in a debate. "She is interested. We’re just having the difficulty of fitting it in her schedule,” Pelt said.
But the Krepp campaign thinks Norton is running down the clock, as time is running out to schedule a debate before Election Day.
"Historically, Del. Norton has not had a challenging campaign and their strategy is to ignore the challenger," said Pate. "I mean, I don’t blame her for that. She’s a tenured incumbent … she can kind of afford to just wait it out.”
In an effort to garner public support for a debate, the Krepp campaign turned to social media, circulating a debate petition hosted on its website.
The petition takes center stage on Krepp's site, telling supporters, "The first thing, the very first thing I need you to do is to sign our Debate Petition." The petition had gathered 142 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
Pate said he also reached out to the two other candidates challenging Norton to see if they were interested in participating in a debate, but none of the candidates expressed any interest. "It would be a debate definitely without the main attraction," Pate said, referring to the possiblity of a debate among the other candidates without Norton.
“We’re really open to anything," Pate said. "We would do whatever date or format she wanted.”
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