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Martin, Wagner spar over candidate forums and debates -- notably when and how many

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 1, 2011 - Not all congressional negotiations these days center on the debt ceiling. Second District congressional candidates Ann Wagner and Ed Martin, both Republicans, sent out dueling dispatches today about debates or forums -- including how many, when and who should host them.

Since then, the two campaigns have begun private talks that Martin's spokesman Rush James predicts will settle any disputes.

The two have engaged in a few joint appearances already, but they've also sparred about events where only one showed up.

Wagner initially sent out a missive this morning that "challenged Ed Martin to 10 public forums hosted by various Republican organizations and media outlets." She proposed that the events begin in October.

"There are serious issues facing our district and nation," said Wagner. "I have been talking to voters -- real people in the 2nd District -- who are scared for our nation, scared about our children's future and they demand that an effective, conservative leader go to Washington and cut up the government's credit card."

"The crushing debt, the out- of-control spending and threats of tax increases threaten job creators and hurt our citizens who are desperately looking for quality jobs. It's time to set the petty politics and political games behind and get to work for the people of this district and country."

Martin, meanwhile, countered by praising the July candidate forum in St. Charles (which Wagner did not attend, sending a representative instead) and a west county event on Aug. 20 that he has accepted.

Martin proposed monthly candidate debates, beginning now, that would step up to weekly events next June and July, leading up to the Aug. 8, 2012 primary.

Martin's spokesman James added, in a veiled dig at Wagner: "We expect our candidates to show up, debate the issues and explain their positions on the key issues that matter to conservatives: fighting abortion, fighting for American jobs and stopping the out-of-control Washington, D.C., establishment.

"By giving our fellow citizens a chance to see the candidates debate and to ask them questions, these citizens will have a better sense of who will 'walk the walk' and not just 'talk the poll- tested talk.' You see, we need real fighters for conservative issues in Congress if we are going to save our nation!"

Later, James said in a telephone interview that the two campaigns were talking today about dates for forums and debates. "We both seem to be on the same page," James said.

The jockeying -- which resembles the debt-ceiling dance in Washington -- reflects, in part, the heightened tensions between Wagner and Martin, even though candidate filing doesn't begin until February.

Wagner has taken an early lead in the money race, while some local tea party activists appear to be galvanizing around Martin.

At the same time, both are espousing the same views when it comes to federal spending -- cut it -- and social issues like abortion -- stop it.

The stakes are high since, at the moment, no major Democrat has announced for the 2nd District post.

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