U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, the Republican challenger in the race for the U.S. Senate, said Thursday that he would debate Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu on Dec. 1.
The debate will be hosted by RayCom Media, which owns stations in Baton Rouge and Shreveport and manages a station in New Orleans.
During her fiery election night speech, Landrieu criticized Cassidy for hiding and challenged him to six debates in the run-up to the Dec. 6 primary.
Though the Baton Rouge Republican is challenging the re-election of the three-term Democrat, Cassidy throughout the campaign has acted like the incumbent, refusing debates and limiting uncontrolled access.
At a short news conference after receiving the endorsement of the national Susan B. Anthony List, a group that opposes abortion, Cassidy came out swinging, saying Landrieu has distorted his record and is too close to President Barack Obama.
But Cassidy deflected questions about more debates; Landrieu had suggested six, saying the number was meaningless.
“If she wants to have another (debate, let her) reveal to the people of Louisiana her closeness to the president,” Cassidy said. “She’s hiding from her relationship with Barack Obama.”
Landrieu said the number was meant to represent the number of years in a Senate term.
For Cassidy, six was a number that the media has made significant.
“Why don’t we do another number that has significance, 716 billion (dollars) that Obamacare took out,” he said, referring to the Affordable Care Act.
It was his first advertised, public event since winning a spot in the Dec. 6 runoff with Landrieu. During the event, his staff brought a hotel security guard to oust a Democratic Party tracker who was filming the event, whom Cassidy greeted on his way to the podium.
At first, Cassidy said he didn’t know why, and then changed his answer. “Frankly, they’re just trying to find something, if you haven’t noticed, that they can clip out of context to put into an attack ad,” he said.
His spokesman John Cummins said the tracker did not have press credentials.
Earlier in the day, Landrieu quizzed the credentials of a reporter from a national publication who was unknown to her, but eventually answered the reporter’s question.
At the event, Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said Cassidy backed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. That bill would protect the unborn from terminations after five months, the point at which activists claim fetuses can feel pain. He also voted to end taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood. The Washington, D.C.-based group spent $15.25 million in the 2014 election cycle to elect candidates to federal and statewide offices.
Early voting in the runoff will be Nov. 22-29, so the Dec. 1 debate will come after thousands have already cast their ballots.
The hourlong Dec. 1 debate will be at the WAFB-TV studio in Baton Rouge and televised around the state on RayCom Media stations: WVUE in New Orleans, KPLC in Lake Charles and KSLA in Shreveport.