The “No Debate, Debate” in the 1 SD GOP Primary

Has Alex Renard, candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1st Senate District special election primary refused to debate his opponent, State Representative Andre Jacque? It depends who you ask. Jacque says Renard has refused a forum proposed by the N.E.W. Patriots, a group born during the Tea Party movement of 2009, and that Renard wasn’t interested in a similar offer from the Brown County Republican Party. Renard Campaign Manager Dylan Lange denied Jacque’s claim in an email to Media Trackers:

Andre is again spreading misinformation. There are not two organized debates; however, we did participate in a forum with Andre last night.
Media Trackers never mentioned “organized” debates. Meanwhile, Lange is referring to an appearance by Jacque and Renard before the Executive Committee of the Kewaunee Co. Republican Party Wednesday night, when he says Renard participated in a forum. Jacque gave a much more detailed email response:
  1. Shortly after the special election was called, Brown County GOP Chair Marian Krumberger called me to ask if I would be willing to have a debate before the special election primary if she could get it set up. I enthusiastically agreed. She said she would be reaching out to Alex Renard’s campaign with the same request. It would potentially be moderated by someone from WTAQ (radio) on or off-air or some mutually agreeable person, and we discussed possible locations as well. She suggested early the week of April 23rd would be her target, and I placed a hold on my calendar for the nights of April 23rd and 24th. Apparently, Renard was not interested.
  2. I accepted the offer from NEW Patriots to participate in a pre-primary debate, sent by Ron Zahn last week Friday, and emailed him several possible dates that would work out of the range of dates suggested, but hadn’t heard back yet (a response had been requested by April 23rd).

 

Media Trackers than posed the following to Lange, via e-mail:

1) When did the N.E.W. Patriots contact the Renard campaign proposing a debate?
2) When did the Renard campaing respond?
3) What was that response?
4) What was the Renard campaign response to a forum proposal from Marian Krumberger of the Brown County Republican Party
5) Is it your belief that the appearance before the Kewaunee Co. GOP executive committee constitutes a “forum.”
We received this response:
There are not two offers of debates. As for Kewaunee, we participated in that forum, but I’m not sure how they promoted it.
However, Media Trackers has obtained the contents of an email Lange sent to the N.E.W. Patriots concerning a proposed forum:

As you know, this election is on a compressed timeline and we are focused on meeting with voters in the 1 SD directly at their homes. Therefore, we will be unable to attend a forum. We hope to have the opportunity to talk with you in the future.

Sincerely,

 

Dylan Lange, campaign manager

Renard for Senate Campaign.

Krumberger confirms to Media Trackers that the Brown County GOP did reach out to both candidates about a possible forum but says neither refused:

 I did reach out to both candidates. I didn’t get a negative from either one of them. Andre wanted WTAQ(to moderate). Alex wanted someone neutral.

Krumberger says in the end the forum didn’t come together and concedes the county party may have “dropped the ball.” As for Lange’s contention that the Kewaunee County GOP appearance constitute’s a forum, Jacque strongly disagrees.

If Dylan Lange is trying to bill our conversation with the Kewaunee County GOP Executive Committee earlier this week as any sort of publicly accessible “forum,” that’s laughable. It was not advertised to the public to my knowledge, and the room we were meeting in was definitely at full capacity with 13 people (including Alex, Dylan and myself).

Alex was not willing to respond to any of the direct policy questions that I asked.  And if he was willing to speak to the Kewaunee GOP Executive Committee, why couldn’t we have held a debate or public forum that night or any other night this week at the same time (or any time at night when it is too dark to be going door-to-door) that voters could attend?

Jacque provided the invitation to the Kewaunee Co. meeting he received:

Andre and Alex,

You are both invited to attend the Kewaunee Co. Executive Committee meeting on Wed April 25th.  I would like to set aside 20 to 30 minutes where our committee could have a chance to have open discussion with the Candidates who are going to go head to head on May 15th.

I recognize that you both addressed us at the LDD, but there was no time for any Q & A.

Your thoughts?

Ron Heuer

Chairman, GOP, Kewaunee, Co.

It seems clear that there were, in fact, two opportunities for forums presented; one from the Brown County Republican Party, the other from the N.E.W. Patriots. It is also clear that Renard flatly rejected at participation in at least one of the proposed forums. It’s also possible Lange makes a distinction between “debate” and “forum.” If he does, he didn’t mention that point to Media Trackers; something he could have done by answering the five questions posed to him. Forum and debate are commonly used interchangeably. It also seems clear that there will be no joint appearance between Renard and Jacque before the special election party.

Renard is spending significant amounts of money on ads in the Green Bay television market. An ad getting heavy airplay highlights Renard as an “outsider” and features video of the candidate at his family’s business. It makes no mention of any policy positions Renard holds.