John Fetterman’s campaign announced on Wednesday that the Democratic Senate nominee in Pennsylvania had agreed to an Oct. 25 debate in Harrisburg, Pa., hosted by Nexstar Television.
The announcement followed the lieutenant governor’s commitment last week to one debate with his Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, in the high-stakes battle. Oz, who is trailing in the polls, has hammered on the issue, questioning Fetterman’s ability to debate after he suffered a stroke in May.
The Oz campaign responded on Wednesday with more conditions before agreeing to the debate. It said Fetterman’s team asked for a closed-caption monitor — and two practice sessions to get used to closed captioning — to help with the Democrat’s auditory processing issues related to his stroke.
The Oz statement said the Republican would agree to the debate under three conditions: if the moderator explained to the audience that Fetterman was using a closed-captioning system, if the practice debate did not include real debate questions and if the debate was 90 minutes instead of 60.
“If those three reasonable requests are acceptable to the Fetterman campaign, then we accept the debate invitation on October 25th” the Oz campaign said in a statement, continuing to slam Fetterman for agreeing to only one debate.
The Fetterman campaign got ahead of the Oz attack in its statement.
“We said from the start that we’d do a debate, which John reiterated very clearly again last week. Enough distractions, it’s time to talk about the issues,” Rebecca Katz, senior adviser to the Fetterman campaign, said in the statement.
Katz went on to hit Oz on his response to questions about whether he would support an abortion ban that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proposed this week.
“While John will be debating Dr. Oz next month, Oz doesn’t have to wait that long to be honest with Pennsylvania voters about where he really stands on abortion,” she said. “It’s a simple question, doctor: Would you vote for the Republicans’ national abortion ban, or would you vote against it?”
The Oz campaign has reiterated that the Republican is against abortion with exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest, but it has not directly addressed the Graham proposal. In a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday, Oz spokesperson Brittany Yanick said that as a senator, Oz would “want to make sure the federal government is not involved in interfering with the state’s decisions on the topic.”
While Fetterman has agreed to face off against his opponent, it’s been a rough year for scheduling debates. Debate-dodging took off in the primaries this year and has continued through the fall, raising questions about the future of the democratic practice.
In another closely watched Senate race, in Georgia, former football star Herschel Walker, the state’s Republican nominee, and Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock finally agreed Tuesday evening to an Oct. 14 debate in Savannah, after Walker dodged a commitment for months. And over the weekend, Democrat Katie Hobbs’ campaign announced she wouldn’t debate with Republican Kari Lake in the race for Arizona governor, expressing concerns that a debate with Lake would “just create another spectacle, like we saw in the GOP primary debate.”