Barrow accepts Press Club debate invitation

ATLANTA — Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow committed Thursday to participate in a debate to be broadcast statewide even if his Republican challenger stays home.

The Atlanta Press Club announced that the Democratic incumbent will be there despite his having earlier conditioned his participation on the acceptance of GOP challenger Lee Anderson.

Anderson, a Grovetown state representative, was quoted in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday saying he declined because the Oct. 21 debate would only give Barrow a wider forum to lie about his record.

Anderson has turned down all other debate invitations during the general election, although he took part in 17 events during the July primary when three other candidates shared the stages with him.

The Atlanta Press Club, the host of the debate, works with Georgia Public Broadcasting to present debates to statewide audiences.

The club also expects C-SPAN to air the debate because the race has drawn national attention because Barrow, an Augusta resident, is the only white Democratic congressman left in the Deep South.

Also Thursday, the club issued invitations to the candidates running for two seats on the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities such as Georgia Power Co., which is constructing two reactors at its Plant Vogtle near Augusta.

Two of the challengers accepted almost immediately.

Libertarian David Staples, who wants to unseat Republican Stan Wise, jumped on the chance to participate in a televised half-hour discussion.

“Absolutely,” Staples wrote in an e-mail in response to a question about his participation. “I believe it’s important for voters to know where candidates stand on the issues so they can make informed choices. This is especially true for an office that is largely ignored, such as the PSC … ”

Democratic challenger Steve Oppen­heimer, who wants to remove Republican Chuck Eaton, is also eager, according to his spokesman Ted Terry.

“With all of our debates, our hope is to give voters the opportunity to learn where the candidates stand on the issues in a nonpartisan setting so they can make an informed decision on election day,” said Lauri Strauss, the press club’s executive director.

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