Gov. Pete Ricketts and state Sen. Bob Krist have met in debate only once and both men have differing views on why they likely won’t debate again.
Ricketts, the Republican incumbent, blames Krist, the Democratic challenger, for the cancellation of a scheduled debate at Wayne State College.
“My opponent was the one who wouldn’t agree to a meeting to set up the rules,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Ricketts calls Krist disingenuous when the senator complains about a lack of debates.
“With the Wayne debate, my opponent wouldn’t even set up a meeting with our team to be able to hash those out and that to me says he’s not serious,” Ricketts says.
Not so, says Krist who says talks bogged down when lawyer Mark Fahleson, the former Nebraska Republican Party chair, got involved. Krist claims the two campaigns had agreed to rules when Fahleson demanded another meeting to discuss the debate format.
Fahleson also raised an objection to NET playing a role in the debate, arguing that since NET receives state funding, it could not be a truly disinterested party.
With the two camps at loggerheads, the September 21st debate at Wayne State College sponsored by the Wayne Area of Economic Development was scrapped.
Krist says he called the governor, but Ricketts didn’t answer the phone. He says he did not leave a voice mail.
“If he wants to make an issue out of the debates, let’s have a debate. Let’s just go down there and talk to him right now and have a debate,” Krist tells Nebraska Radio Network. “The debate over the debate is he’s afraid to debate me.”
Krist adds that he “kicked his butt” in their only debate, August 30th at the State Fair in Grand Island. That debate was sponsored by the Omaha World-Herald and KMTV.
After the Wayne debate was cancelled, the Krist campaign emailed a letter October 1st as a PDF attachment. In the letter, Krist suggested the two campaigns agree to an invitation made by KETV-7 to have a debate in its Omaha studio with questions posed by KETV reporters without an audience.
Ricketts says he considered the letter a political stunt since the campaign sent the letter out on Twitter. Krist says the campaign published the letter on social media when it didn’t get a response, adding that even if the governor thought it was a political stunt, he still could have answered the letter.
Ricketts and Krist did share a stage October 7th during a forum at Temple Israel in Omaha in which they answered prepared questions with no interaction.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]