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Challenger of Skelton unhappy with senior citizens candidate forum format

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Oct. 9, 2010) — The Republican seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton has agreed to attend a Tuesday evening candidate forum sponsored by the Waynesville-St. Robert Senior Citizens Center, but in an announcement for a Friday afternoon press conference at the state capitol in Jefferson City, Vicky Hartzler blasted Skelton for his “decision to avoid speaking to and taking questions from the people he represents.”

Less than an hour before Missouri Republican Party Executive Director Lloyd Smith was scheduled to begin a Monday afternoon telephone press conference attacking Skelton’s refusal to debate Hartzler, Skelton’s campaign manager Jason Rauch emailed the Pulaski County Daily News with an announcement that Skelton had accepted an invitation to attend the Waynesville-St. Robert Senior Citizens Center candidate forum, which will be held on Tuesday evening, Oct. 12, at the St. Robert Community Center on Old Route 66.

That’s friendly territory for Skelton near Fort Leonard Wood, one of the strongest bases of Skelton’s support in the Fourth Congressional District.

Special arrangements have been made for Skelton, Hartzler, and Constitution Party candidate Greg Cowan. All three will speak after the opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m.; Senior Citizens Center board chairwoman Lela Randolph Dyl noted that “this will be the first time that Congressman Skelton and his Republican opponent have appeared together at the same event since the 2010 campaign began.”

However, that’s not enough for Hartzler, who noted that the candidate forum isn’t a debate.

“The format does not call for the individuals to question each other, nor does it give the public the opportunity to speak to the candidates. Hartzler feels the citizens of the 4th District deserve better and calls on the congressman to agree to face to face candidate forums in which the contenders must answer to the people. He has, so far, refused to agree to that,” staff members for Hartzler said in a prepared statement.

“We had hoped to have Congressman Skelton agree to a candidate forum in Jefferson City on Friday,” said Hartzler. “Sadly, he has chosen to once again deny citizens of the Fourth District the opportunity to question him on his job-killing votes and other issues of great importance. I will be happy to discuss this and any other matters with the media at the Capitol.”

The format being used Tuesday is standard for the Waynesville-St. Robert Senior Citizens’ Center, which uses the candidate forum as a fundraiser. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. and runs until 6:30 p.m. with the meal cost of $7 for attendees, along with candidate registration fees, going toward the center’s homebound meals program and the operational costs of the center.

Traditionally, the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce had sponsored a more aggressive candidate event with candidates taking questions from the audience, and that event was televised on public access cable Channel 12. However, the Chamber isn’t sponsoring its candidate forum this year.

Other candidates speaking at the Waynesville-St. Robert Senior Citizens Center candidate forum are:

  • Incumbent State Sen. Frank Barnitz, a Dent County Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Dan Brown of Rolla;
  • Incumbent Presiding Commissioner Don McCulloch, a Waynesville Democrat, and his Republican challenger, St. Robert Alderman Gene Newkirk;
  • Democratic county treasurer candidate Ted Helms of Crocker and Republican county treasurer candidate Sue Rapone of Waynesville; and
  • Democratic prosecutor candidate Wayne Gifford of Laquey and Republican prosecutor candidate Kevin Hillman of Waynesville.

Four unopposed candidates will also speak. Those four are Republican incumbent State Rep. David Day of Dixon; Democrat incumbent Associate Circuit Judge Colin Long of Waynesville; Republican incumbent County Collector Terri Mitchell of Richland; and Brent Bassett of Waynesville, who won a three-way Republican primary nomination for county clerk and has no Democrat opposition in the fall.

In addition, Terri Mitchell’s husband, former State Rep. Jim Mitchell, will speak on behalf of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt of Springfield who is running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate. The Democratic candidate, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, did not reply to the senior citizens’ center.

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