The Atlanta Press Club, which hosts debates that are telecast on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s statewide network, said the governor’s campaign responded to the debate invitation for May 14 in the network’s Atlanta studios. The club issued the invitation far in advance to try to accommodate all of the candidates in its series, which will include those from both parties running in contested primaries for the U.S. Senate, Congress and the Public Service Commission.
A brief email from Deal’s campaign released by the club gave the reason for his absence.
“Unfortunately, Gov. Deal will be unable to attend as he has long-standing prior commitments that day,” wrote Jen Talaber, Deal for Governor communications director. “My apologies, and please let me know if you need anything else.”
The club invites all qualified candidates when it holds a debate and has a lectern for each on the set. If a candidate doesn’t attend, the moderator explains, and the lectern remains empty.
Debate Committee Chairwoman Maria Saporta said she hoped Deal’s schedule could be shifted around so that he can participate after all.
Deal is facing two primary challengers in his quest for re-election, former Dalton Mayor David Pennington and Superintendent of Schools John Barge.