UPDATE, October 6 11:40 a.m.: This post has been updated to reflect the Peters’ campaign’s denial that talks have broken down.
After months of calling for televised debates in the Michigan Senate race, Democrat Gary Peters pulled out of negotiations on Friday, according to the campaign of Republican Terri Lynn Land. The Peters campaign denies that discussions are on hold.
The news came shortly after Land appeared on a radio townhall. Land campaign spokeswoman Heather Swift credited Peters’ withdrawal to the Republican’s "strong performance" at a radio townhall on Friday morning.
"Congressman Peters is chickening out on debating Terri Lynn Land. He's beaten his chest for months about wanting debates, but this morning his campaign canceled further negotiations less than one hour after Terri Lynn Land’s strong performance in her 60 minute Michigan Public Radio interview," Swift said. "It sure looks like Peters is having second thoughts about debating Terri now."
Peters’ negotiator, former Lt. Gov. John Cherry, denied that the Democratic nominee was pulling out of debate negotiations in an email to the Washington Free Beacon.
"I am not aware that negotiations have broken down," he said.
Cherry sent the Land team an email on Friday morning to cancel a scheduled conference call to discuss a televised debate.
"Given the press stories that have run the past couple of days based on ‘sources’ who are leaking the fact that an agreement has been reached, I do not believe a conference call day would result in a productive discussion," Cherry said in the email.
The Peters campaign sent a press release late Friday denying the accusation and criticizing the Land campaign for implying that talks had failed.
"It is hurtful and transparently dishonest that the Land campaign would leak a private email that confirms our good intentions to continue productive debate discussions," Cherry said in the release.
Cherry’s opposition to public accounts of the negotiations is at odds with his calls for openness from the candidates. He released a letter calling for personal meetings with Land and her team to hash out a debate.
"I am requesting a meeting with you and Ms. Land and her campaign. It is imperative that discussions with Ms. Land and her campaign begin now so we do not miss another deadline and another opportunity to hold a public debate," Cherry said in a letter posted to Peters’ campaign website. "I believe unvarnished, one to one interactions during a campaign can give voters a chance to hear candidates respond to tough, probing questions and learn more about a candidate’s view.The United States Senate is commonly referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Michiganders deserve–and expect–their next senator will start day one with debating skills to fight for Michigan among senators from 49 other states. I can think of no better way to demonstrate that one commands the skill and talent to excel in that environment than offering Michigan voters a firsthand glimpse through public debates in forums such as the one you offer."
Swift said that blaming press leaks is a disingenuous excuse from someone so committed to "unvarnished one to one" debate.
"Last week Cherry was on the radio saying the debate negotiations should be public and in the media, calling for them to be done on live radio, so his excuse of the leaked press reports is bogus," she said.
Peters leads Land by 6.5 points, according to a Real Clear Politics poll average.