Irritated at U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) for resisting two debate forums, Republican challenger Jeff Bell said he wants a substitute showdown with Booker Campaign Manager Brendan Gill, an Essex County Freeholder and the former state director for the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
Bell said Booker didn’t agree to televised debates planned by NJTV and Rutgers University/News 12.
“Cory Booker has backed out of two debates that were to be shown to the voters of New Jersey on statewide television — he says he does not have time to do them,” Bell said in a statement. “I anticipate that he will therefore find a reason to withdraw from the third debate organized by the League of Women Voters. Therefore, I challenge Brendan Gill to debate me at all three forums. He is an Essex County Freeholder and perfectly capable of representing the views of Cory Booker in a debate. If Freeholder Gill does not have the time to do it either, I am willing to debate any other representative from the campaign provided they have the permission of Cory Booker.”
NJTV issued a formal statement this afternoon.
“NJTV welcomes the opportunity to provide statewide coverage of high-profile political debates as it did for the U.S. Senate Election (Kyrillos/Menendez) in 2012 and the Gubernatorial Election (Christie/Buono) in 2013. This year, the network invited both Senator Booker and New Jersey Republican U.S. Senate nominee Jeff Bell to participate in a debate. The Booker campaign declined the offer. No formal date had been set. The offer for NJTV to broadcast such a debate between these two candidates still stands.”
The League of Women Voters debate in which the Booker Campaign agreed to participate is scheduled for Oct. 25th on ABC New York and WPVI Philadelphia.
Gill was not immediately available to respond to Bell’s challenge.
Booker spokesperson Silvia Alvarez later issued a statement.
“Sen. Booker has agreed to one televised debate with Mr. Bell,” Alvarez said. “We are satisfied that the WABC/WPVI/League of Women Voters/Univision debate will reach a wide audience and expose New Jersey voters to the clear choices they have before them.
“Since he was elected last October, Sen. Booker has maintained a constant and steady dialogue with the people of New Jersey, responding to their needs and working with anyone in either party that will help him get results. No number of debates will compensate for Jeff Bell’s 31-year absence from New Jersey and his total disconnection from the needs and concerns of the Garden State and its families.”
Bell put a twist on his disgust.
“It’s an abdication of leadership not to debate the important issues in an election,” said the Republican. “If Cory Booker doesn’t think the voters of New Jersey deserve such debates, I’m sure someone in his campaign does.”