Democratic gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen has proposed five Lincoln-Douglas debates with Republican nominee Nikki Haley to be held at five sites around the state.
Sheheen, a Camden state senator, and Haley, a Lexington state representative, are the major party nominees headed for a showdown in the Nov. 2 general election. Green Party and United Citizens Party candidate Morgan Reeves will also be on the ballot. How often Reeves will be included in the debates has yet to be determined.
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Lincoln-Douglas debates follow a prescribed format that allows back-and-forth between the candidates. Sheheen said he sent a letter to Haley last week outlining a schedule:
• A Greenville debate on jobs and the economy
• A Columbia debate on education
• A Charleston debate on government reform and transparency
• A Rock Hill debate on tax reform
• And a Myrtle Beach debate on tourism and infrastructure
“These debates will provide South Carolinians with a comprehensive and thorough evaluation of both of us so that they won’t have to make such an important decision based on a thirty-second sound bite,” Sheheen said in a campaign statement. “I believe voters need a series of robust examinations of our positions to not only understand our governing philosophies but also begin to rebuild the trust that elected officials will act in ways consistent with their stated beliefs.”
The Haley campaign said it looks forward to debates, but not on Sheheen’s terms.
“Nikki looks forward to debating with Vincent Sheheen and the opportunity to contrast her conservative reform vision for South Carolina with Senator Sheheen’s liberal ideology and status quo vision,” said Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey. “But I’m sure you’ll forgive us if we refrain from allowing our opponent to unilaterally determine the locations, formats and topics of those debates.”
Recent polling suggests the debates are perhaps more important to Sheheen, who is trailing Haley by 16 percentage points, according to an Aug. 25 Rasmussen Reports poll of likely S.C. voters. Haley is preferred by 52 percent of voters polled, and Sheheen, by 36 percent.
Monday Haley picked up another endorsement. Gun Owners of America announced it is endorsing Haley, who has talked frequently on the campaign trail about being a concealed weapons permit holder.