Sen. Joni Ernst's (R., Iowa) Democratic opponent will not participate in the first Iowa Senate debate of the general election.
Democratic nominee Theresa Greenfield opted to skip Wednesday night's debate, which will be hosted by the Spencer Daily Reporter in rural Clay County. While Greenfield claimed she was unable to attend due to her "busy schedule," the Democrat's campaign Facebook page lists no upcoming events. Greenfield did not respond to a request for comment on her absence.
In addition to Ernst, the debate will be attended by GOP state legislator Randy Feenstra and Democratic attorney J.D. Scholten, who are vying for the state's Fourth Congressional District seat. Spencer Daily Reporter editor Randy Cauthron lamented Greenfield's absence, noting that while "three out of four ain't bad" he "would have preferred four."
"I'm not going to lie, I'm extremely disappointed we weren't able to get all four to participate," Cauthron said in a Monday editorial. "Personally I feel our locally focused, rural forums are fair to the candidates, issue based, and informative as opposed to the screaming and shouting matches we traditionally get in the large market 'debates' where we focus on informing the voting public."
Ernst is also set to speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, prompting criticism from Greenfield, who accused her of "standing with national Republicans at the expense of Iowans." Ernst responded by highlighting Greenfield's decision to forgo the debate.
"I'll also be at the first debate of the general election tomorrow in Spencer—a debate you are refusing to attend," Ernst said in a Tuesday tweet. "Would love if you could make it so we could talk face to face about why you kicked Iowa small businesses to the curb. Rural Iowans deserve that."
Greenfield has faced criticism from Republicans for embracing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D., N.Y.) "windowless basement" campaign strategy, which prioritizes fundraising and television ads over public appearances. Her campaign has repeatedly been filmed removing cameras from grassroots events, and supporters joining a July 28 virtual meet and greet were met with a disclaimer stating that "any video, recordings, photographs or other media of any kind generated during the virtual event shall be the sole property of the Campaign." Greenfield is yet to appear in Clay County.
Greenfield, who described herself as "not a policy wonk" during an April 2019 health care forum, had a series of unsteady moments during the state's three primary debates. She refused to take a position on illegal border crossings during a May 18 Iowa Press debate, saying, "we need to address issues like that" and "the whole system is broken." Greenfield was also criticized by fellow Democrats for claiming she is not accepting "one dime in corporate PAC money" while taking thousands from corporate-funded PACs.
"You can't smile at people and tell them you're not taking corporate PAC money when you're taking tens of thousands of dollars of corporate PAC money, leadership PAC money that's full of pharmaceutical money, fossil fuel money, and Wall Street money," primary opponent Eddie Mauro said.
The debate is scheduled to begin at 6:30 central time.