The Frank Lautenberg Senate campaign today turned down an open-ended debate invitation from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind research center.
That marks the second event that Lautenberg has declined to participate in. The first was a joint forum sponsored by the Press of Atlantic City and Richard Stockton College, to be held on the college’s Pomona campus. Andrews has agreed to participate in 10 others, but Lautenberg has not yet committed to any.
“What Andrews said was that he accepted the invitation and that he would debate anywhere, anytime. What we said to Lautenberg was that we would look with him to find any date that was convenient to him,” said Professor Peter Woolley, referring to the campaign staffs. “We could do almost any date. We were very flexible.”
The campaign told Emilio Javier, a graduate assistant who was coordinating the event, that they were “contemplating other options at this time.”
In a familiar turn of events, Lautenberg’s Democratic primary rival, Rob Andrews, held a conference call to press Lautenberg on committing to at least seven debates. Andrews was informed by PolitickerNJ.com during the call that Lautenberg had turned down the FDU invitation, which he had accepted without condition.
“So that’s two rejections,” said Andrews. “At least they’re geographically balanced.”
Andrews was joined on the call by state Sen. Bob Smith, who said that Lautenberg needs to “come out of the cave.”
“Quite frankly, if (Lautenberg) survives the primary, in the fall the Republican candidate for US Senate is going to rip him to shreds, because he just can’t get away with this,” said Smith.
Andrews’s wife, Camille, is running for the congressional seat he’s vacating in the 1st district, though she’ll step aside if party leaders field a different candidate. Andrews said he thinks she would be willing to debate her two primary challengers.
“She would speak for herself, but I have no question that she would,” he said.
Lautenberg spokeswoman Julie Roginsky said that the campaign is in the process of scheduling debates right now.
“There will be debates,” she said.