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Moore won’t participate in Senate debate, organizers say

Moore and Jones

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore will face former federal prosecutor Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 Senate election. 

A proposed debate between Alabama’s Senate candidates, in the works for weeks, won’t happen because Republican candidate Roy Moore wouldn’t agree to show up, a debate organizer said Tuesday.

“Everybody thought it would be a good idea,” said Barbara Caddell, state president of the League of Women Voters. “Everybody but the candidates.”

Caddell said the League, Alabama Public Television and the University of Alabama chapter of the Andrew Goodman Foundation – a nonpartisan group dedicated to increasing student participation in elections – tried to organize a one hour debate between Moore and his Democratic opponent Doug Jones.

Voters will go to the polls Dec. 12 to choose either Moore or Jones to finish the U.S. Senate term begun by Jeff Sessions, who left Congress earlier this year to become U.S. attorney general.

Caddell said Jones had agreed to the matchup, but Moore declined because “he didn’t want to appear with anyone else.”

Both campaigns have had other offers from would-be debate hosts. Television station WHNT in Huntsville last week offered to host a debate, giving both campaigns a Monday deadline to respond. On Monday, citing discussions with both campaigns over “potential logistics,” the station moved the deadline to Wednesday.

Moore’s spokesman, John Rogers, said the campaign has had many debate offers, and is still considering the WHNT invitation.
“We’re looking at it,” Rogers said. “But for both campaigns it takes a little prep time, and there’s not much time left.”

Rogers, who joined the campaign in mid-October, said the decision on the League of Women Voters debate was made before he came on board.

Jones, in a campaign stop in Anniston Tuesday, said Moore was unwilling to discuss the important issues in the campaign.

“I think I am just generally debating myself these days,” Jones said. “I mean, he is nowhere to be seen.”

Both candidates appeared in multiple debates during the primary election earlier this year. Debates in Alabama’s general election have become increasingly rare over the years. Gubernatorial candidates haven’t met for a Democrat-versus-Republican debate since 2010. Republican nominees for U.S. Senate typically eschew debates with their Democratic rivals. No Democrat has won a Senate seat from Alabama in more than 20 years.

The Moore-Jones race is widely believed to be closer than recent matchups, with Moore typically polling ahead of Jones, but sometimes within the margin of error.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.