“If He Were Here, I’d Say It To His Face.”

Screenshot from Georgia Public Broadcasting

Yesterday, the Atlanta Press Club and Georgia Public Broadcasting hosted a debate between the candidates in the runoff for Secretary of State. Only John Barrow, the Democrat in the race, participated.

Barrow wasted no time to take advantage of his opponent’s absence. “The last time we had this debate I think I beat my opponent up pretty big,” he said during the debate, and continued, “He claims I’m opposed to maintaining voting rolls. He’s taken a difference about how best to do it and turned it into a phony claim that I’m opposed to doing it. It’s dishonest as hell and if he were here I’d say it to his face.”

Republican candidate Brad Raffensperger maintained that the “last-minute nature” of the debate lead to the schedule conflict. The Atlanta Press Club issued a lengthy statement in response to Raffensperger’s assertion:

APC reached out to both campaigns on November 9 inviting the candidates to participate in a Secretary of State runoff debate on November 27 at 11:30 a.m. After repeated attempts to reach the Raffensperger campaign with no response, we contacted Brad Raffensperger directly on November 19 who provided another campaign contact. We were told on November 19 that November 27 was not an ideal date for Mr. Raffensperger’s schedule, but the campaign did not decline his participation in the debate until November 25 [Sunday]. Because the APC hosts several debates in one day, and due to limited studio availability with broadcast partner Georgia Public Broadcasting, we are not able to negotiate dates with the campaigns…the Raffensperger campaign did not provide any options.

AJC Editor Kevin Riley inserted an additional twist at around the 22 minute mark of yesterday’s Political Rewind broadcast on GPB Radio. He described how the AJC asked both candidates to write an op-ed piece that would directly address the question of whether they would resign as Secretary of State if they were to run for another office. Barrow “immediately” replied that in that situation, he would step down. Riley continued that after a prolonged “back and forth,” Raffensperger finally responded that he doesn’t plan to run for another office, rendering the question moot. According to Riley, when they the initially did not get a response from the Raffensperger campaign during this process, the AJC was told, “the email went to an intern, whatever… we didn’t get the email, we couldn’t meet the deadline, we misunderstood the deadline…Maybe this is a staff thing but…being ready to answer that question seems like something…you should expect,” as a candidate for Secretary of State. Fellow panelist Jackie Gingrich Cushman agreed.

You can watch the debate here. (At the time of publication, Clint Eastwood had not replied to our request for comment.)

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