Tempers in the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary are heating up after two of the candidates backed out of the first scheduled televised debate because of concerns one candidate might have had access to the questions in advance.
The campaigns of state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Beaverton) and state Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) canceled their plans to participate in the debate, set for Thursday night, because they had received unconfirmed reports that Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian's campaign had been given the questions ahead of time.
The campaign for Avakian denied that, and said Bonamici, his chief rival in the race, was using a rumor as a way to duck facing Avakian in person.
The two campaigns said they had no evidence Avakian's camp had received the debate questions but were relying on reports that reached them.
"I have heard that Avakian had the questions, but I don't know that," says Roger Gray, a consultant to Witt. "I said that this isn't the kind of thing our candidate gets to participate in, unless our candidate gets a fair shake."
As The Oregonian first reported, the first televised debate between Avakian, Bonamici and Witt that was supposed to be held tonight was abruptly canceled yesterday. Late Thursday afternoon, Washington County Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Packer sent the following email to handful of party leaders:
I received this joint statement from the Witt/Bonamici Campaigns a few minutes ago:
As you know, tonightâs scheduled 1st Congressional Debate has been canceled.
State Senator Suzanne Bonamici and State Representative Brad Witt both had serious concerns regarding the integrity of this debate and the lack of proper communication to the parties involved.
Please be assured that this cancellation is in no way a negative reflection on the work done by our core democratic party leaders or their commitment to providing voters a chance to hear directly from the candidates. We are equally dedicated to providing voters every opportunity to make an informed decision in this race, and thank everyone for their continued commitment to keeping this primary a positive example of Democratic values at work.