U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa campaign says debate will happen ‘soon’ | TheUnion.com

U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa campaign says debate will happen ‘soon’

Audrey Denney, D-Chico, the Democratic candidate for California’s 1st Congressional District, this week in a press release called out incumbent Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, for ignoring requests to participate in debates and forums alongside his challenger.

“Rep. LaMalfa has once again displayed his cowardice and abdicated his responsibility to his constituents,” Denney said in the Monday release.

LaMalfa’s campaign manager David Gilliard said he had not yet read the press release, but that it sounded like “a typical campaign stunt.”

Gilliard said the congressman fully intends to participate in a public conversation with Denney prior to November’s election.

LaMalfa and Denney debated prior to the 2018 election, Gilliard said, suggesting that the congressman is not afraid to face her or his constituents. The debates were held in Anderson and Graeagle.

“It’s kind of hard to schedule things too far out,” Gilliard explained, “but there’s 100% chance he’ll be doing a debate.”

Gilliard said the debate will take place “soon.”

Brian Solecki, Denney’s campaign manager, said in an email that his office has reached out to LaMalfa’s camp multiple times since June. Additionally, a July 6 letter received no response.

“He has had plenty of time for photo-ops and anti-Covid mask protests,” the email states. “We have offered multiple times to clear any date/time on our schedule to accommodate his. From our campaign letter to him: ‘We will clear our calendar for any August/September/October available dates in order to make sure these events best work for the Congressman.’”

According to Denney’s press release, LaMalfa has not responded to forum requests from League of Women Voters chapters in western Nevada County, Butte and Shasta counties, as well as the California Alliance of Retired Americans in Redding and the Nevada County Media Forum.

The release said LaMalfa canceled a day before the Nevada County Association of Realtors forum set for Sept. 9.

Mark Spannagel said as LaMalfa’s chief of staff, he is privy to the congressman’s schedule, adding that LaMalfa never officially agreed to attend any public forum with Denney, therein never officially canceled.

“There are two factors in setting a date for a town hall or public forum,” Gilliard said. “COVID-19 and the fact that the congressional calendar has been up in the air.“

The 2020 Congressional Calendar indicates that Congress did not convene from Aug. 1 until Sept. 8 for “Committee Work Days.” According to the Sacramento Bee, LaMalfa and Trump met Monday in Sacramento for a roundtable on the California wildfires.

Gilliard and Spannagel said Denney’s claim that the congressman has shirked any obligation to his constituents has no basis, referencing the seven town halls LaMalfa has hosted in District 1 over the course of this year.

“Hopefully we will finalize plans for a forum appearance in the next couple of weeks,” a release from LaMalfa’s campaign states. “Audrey will have her opportunity to sling mud.”

Spannagel said community engagement with LaMalfa has actually grown since the town halls went virtual.

“Since we’ve been on lockdown, we’ve hosted seven town halls with 50,000 participants,” Spannagel said.

As chief of staff, Spannagel said he’s not permitted to talk about campaign issues, but expressed confidence in LaMalfa’s commitment to the people of District 1, asserting that LaMalfa not only participates in, but orchestrates more town halls than any other representative in California.

“LaMalfa does town halls constantly — all the time, every year,” Spannagel said, highlighting one town hall where 1,568 people attended to discuss health care. “He enjoys them. We had one of the largest town halls in history. We rented the largest facility in Nevada County when the health care bill was going through.”

LaMalfa in 2017 held a packed town hall at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The audience was focused on health care, climate change and immigration.

Gilliard said he does not assist LaMalfa in his current legislative duties, but appreciates the unique set of obstacles and pressures the congressman faces amidst the current health crisis caused by COVID-19.

“(Denney) knows he has a myriad of responsibilities as a member of Congress,” Gilliard said. “He represents the physically largest district in the country.”

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com.

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