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Debate-Gate: The Alabama Senate Race Gets Even Moore Strange

The long-awaited show down in a one-on-one debate between Luther Strange and Roy Moore in the run-off for the U.S. Senate seat was finally on the calendar for Thursday, September 21, giving voters a chance to go beyond the politics of accusation and evaluate the policy positions of each candidate.  And then it wasn’t.

Moore canceled the event, citing the fact that the leader of one of the organizations hosting it is reportedly involved with a PAC that has sponsored ads promoting Luther Strange.

As Moore said in a press release yesterday:

“I have declined to participate in the Alabama Policy Institute (API) & Samford University US Senate Debate…because it was not disclosed to me or my campaign at the time the invitation was accepted, that the President of API, Caleb Crosby, also serves as the Treasurer for the Senate Leadership Fund.”

To this cancellation, the Strange campaign said:

The Alabama Policy Institute has had this event scheduled since August 16th and it was confirmed by both candidates by August 23rd. This comes on the heels of the cancelation of the News Radio 105.5 WERC last week. Another debate is scheduled on Friday, September 22 at 7:00 p.m. CST and is hosted by AARP and Raycom Media pending no refusal from the Moore campaign.

Expounding on the cancellation, Strange for Senate spokesman Cameron Foster, added:

“Another week, another canceled debate from Roy Moore. The only time we’ve seen him in the last three weeks was when he was flying to Washington D.C. for a fundraiser with NeverTrumper Alan Keyes. Roy Moore, like so many other career politicians, must believe he is above answering questions from Alabama citizens. What is Roy Moore afraid of? What is Roy Moore hiding? Voters should ask themselves, if Roy Moore refuses to answer questions from voters, will he listen to their concerns in elected office?”

In Moore’s press release, however, he was adamant that Crosby’s involvement in the SLF is grounds for him to cancel the September 21 debate at Samford, stating:

The Senate Leadership Fund is responsible for millions of dollars’ worth of malicious and false ads designed to stain my character and reputation. I have asked my opponent repeatedly to denounce these ads against me, my wife, and my family, as he knows that the content contained therein is completely false. However, Luther Strange has not done so. In fact, he has warmly embraced McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund and Caleb Crosby as his key allies. The fact that this debate was being hosted by the Treasurer of a group so partial to my opponent’s personal interests is yet another Washington trick – the same kind of tricks despised by the people of Alabama.

Despite all this, Moore was insistent that he wanted to debate Strange, but only on his terms. As Moore wrote:

“Over the course of the primary election, Luther Strange failed to show up to 8 different forums where I and the other candidates put our positions and candidacy on the line, which is a fact well known to the Alabama press corps who attended these forums. I find it hypocritical that Luther Strange is now suggesting that I am the one who is ducking debates. We shall see who is ducking debates…I propose a public debate, mano a mano, no tricks, no moderators, no questions from the press. Just Luther Strange and me on the stage presenting our issues and the opponents’ responses thereto.”

To this, Foster replied on behalf of the Strange for Senate Campaign saying:

“It is extremely telling – and frankly, a little embarrassing – when any candidate demands a ‘no questions from the press’ debate.  That said, our campaign believes the voters deserve every opportunity to hear from both candidates in a fair and open forum.  Our campaign will agree to Roy Moore’s conditions, as long as a mutually agreed upon person will act as a mediator and the Moore campaign accepts the invitation from AARP and Raycom on their debate. Arguing over petty issues like format, topics, or moderators is a political game Democrats play and should have no place in this election. The voters deserve a debate, so our campaign will do whatever we can to make sure that happens.

Foster continued:

“Below is a list of extremely reputable journalists and community leaders in Alabama that would be approved by our campaign to act as the mediator. We ask that the Moore campaign respond quickly so the necessary steps can be made to put this event on.”

Michael Hart, Jeff “JT” Tyson, Dan Morris, Scott Beason, Bryan Lyman, Scott Chambers, BJ Ellis, Larry Huff, Don Dailey, Cameron Smith, Kim Chandler, Paul Gattis, John Sharp, Terry Lathan, Steve Flowers, Bob Grip, or any anchor at ABC 33/40, NBC 13, or WSFA (networks previously confirmed for the API forum)

Nevertheless, at the end of his press Tuesday release, Moore threw down the gauntlet for Strange to agree on a debate the way Moore wants it conducted, writing:

“I ask Luther Strange’s Campaign Chairman to contact my Campaign Chairman, Bill Armistead, to accept my offer.”

After all the back and forth, that’s exactly what Luther Strange has done—but with one suggestion: that Moore considers a second debate on Raycom’s terms.

In a Memo emailed to Yellowhammer moments ago, Strange for Senate spokesman Cameron Foster wrote this to  Moore’s Campaign Chairman, Bill Armistead:

The Strange for Senate Campaign is extremely disappointed in how Roy Moore has handled the basic request to debate the issues for Alabama voters.  That said, we are committed to the voters and will accommodate Mr. Moore’s ridiculous demands if that is the only way to get him to come out of hiding. We strongly encourage Judge Moore to also commit to the Raycom Debate in whatever format they feel necessary. This will allow Judge Moore to debate in the format he has so adamantly demands while still allowing Raycom to host the debate they have been working on for a month.

Voters throughout the state deserve to hear from the two candidates in this race and need Roy Moore’s answers to the legal questions surrounding his foundation. Voters want to know why his foundation cheated a Christian fundraising firm who they hired to raise money off of Roy Moore’s antics and who paid the court judgment of almost half a million dollars. This political maneuvering needs to stop so we can give the voters the information they need to make an informed vote on September 26th.

We ask that you please hold your preferred formatted debate on Thursday September 21st in any major media market in the state since both candidates previously indicated that date would work. We ask that the Moore campaign respond quickly so the necessary steps can be made.

For now, at least, it appears the two men may actually meet after all. If that happens, Yellowhammer will report the details. In the meantime, please stand by…