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Sen. Udall Declines Live Debate, Ending Decades-Long Tradition

'Sometimes you have the colossal blunder, and sometimes you have the death of a thousand cuts. This could be one of those cuts'

Mark Udall / AP
• September 11, 2014 10:44 am

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For the first time in the station's history, an incumbent U.S. senator has declined to debate his opponent on Denver's CBS4.

The station has aired live debates for more than 30 years.

Udall has turned down debates on all four of the major network television stations in Denver.

"Live debates are the one opportunity voters have to see candidates go toe-to-toe without a media filter, see the clarity of their vision and courage of their conviction; how they think on their feet and respond under pressure," said CBS4 political specialist Shaun Boyd.

"We’ve been trying to schedule this debate for more than two months." But Udall says that he is too busy.

"Is there not any date between now and Nov. 4 that would work?" Boyd asked Udall.

"Shaun, we’re going to have a series of debates and forums all over the state," Udall said.

In passing on the debates, Udall’s camp is turning down hours of free airtime.

One of the debates would have been with local political reporter Eli Stokols, who told the Durango Herald he was frustrated by the decision.

"After refusing to discuss our request to hold a debate for two months, Mark Udall’s campaign informed us today they don’t have time to do our debate," Stokols said. "This from a senator who’s had the time to climb mountains on his three-week recess."

In June, Udall sent a letter to his opponent, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, inviting him to a "series of open and honest debates."  Since then, Udall has committed to just four debates–one of which he just approved this week. By contrast, Gardner has committed to 16 debates, including the one at CBS4.

Udall's lack of participation has raised speculation among Democrats, who have said that he could be hurt by not doing the debate.

"I think it will cause many a voter to ask, ‘Why? Why didn’t you go on TV and do the live debate?’" analyst Penfield Tate said.

"Sometimes you have the colossal blunder, and sometimes you have the death of a thousand cuts. This could be one of those cuts, that combined with others, could be harmful, absolutely."

Published under: 2014 Election, Colorado, Debate, Mark Udall