ATLANTA — U.S. Senator David Perdue has withdrawn from a live debate scheduled on WSB-TV for Sunday, saying he will instead campaign with President Trump.
Perdue was set to debate his challenger, Democrat Jon Ossoff, in a live broadcast on Channel 2 scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 1. The debate between Perdue and Ossoff had been planned for months.
On Thursday, President Trump announced he plans to visit Georgia to campaign on Sunday in a last-minute rally to get voters to the polls. Perdue said he plans to join the president, though no details have been released on where Trump plans to visit.
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WSB-TV offered other time slots to work around the President’s rally, but Perdue’s campaign declined. The debate has now been canceled.
Ossoff’s campaign responded Thursday night, saying in a statement:
“Senator Perdue’s cowardly withdrawal from our final debate says it all: David Perdue feels entitled to his office, and he’ll do anything to avoid accountability for his blatant corruption and his total failure during this unprecedented health crisis.”
Senator Perdue’s campaign also issued a statement, saying:
“Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia,” said Perdue for Senate Communications Director John Burke. “For 8 of the last 14 days of this campaign, Senator Perdue went back to Washington to work for much needed COVID relief for Georgians which Jon Ossoff’s top donor Chuck Schumer derailed. Senator Perdue also voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett despite not a single member of the Senate Democrats crossing over – and Jon Ossoff would have joined their opposition had he been in the senate. To make up for the lost time, Senator Perdue has over 20 campaign stops planned for the closing days of this race, and he is excited to welcome and join President Trump in Georgia before November 3rd to campaign for both of their re-election efforts.”
Channel 2 anchor Jorge Estevez talked to Ossoff via Zoom Thursday night. Ossoff said he was deeply disappointed with the decision.
“I’m ready to come and debate we debated last night in Savannah,” Ossoff said. “I think Senator Perdue didn’t appreciate being asked tough questions. This is a senator who hasn’t held a public town hall meeting in six years.”
Ossoff said that in last night’s debate, he asked Perdue why he seemed to downplay the coronavirus while adjusting his own stock portfolio to protect his assets.
“Why has he voted repeatedly to repeal protections for Georgians with pre-existing conditions need health insurance?”' Ossoff said. “These are questions of vital public interest.”
Estevez asked Ossoff if Perdue had the right to rally with the president.
“He has the right to do whatever he’d like to do, but I think it would show respect for the voters for Senator Perdue to engage in an open debate with his opponent, and to answer questions he refused to answer last night,” Ossoff said.
“This is a moment for a serious and substantive discussion of how we empower public health experts to control this virus and ensure every American has access to great health care,” Ossoff said.
Georgia has drawn the attention of both presidential campaigns with polling showing the race very close.
The poll of 500 likely voters took place on Oct. 21, just before the final debate.
It shows Trump leading 49% to former Vice President Joe Biden’s 45%. About 4% of Georgia voters remain undecided. That also falls within the poll’s margin of error, which is 4.4%. So it remains a statistical dead heat.
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