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Democratic challenger wants to debate Rep. Rooney, incumbent declines

Posted at 6:40 PM, Oct 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-01 18:44:08-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A candidate for congress in Southwest Florida is challenging his opponent to a debate, but it doesn't look like that will happen any time soon.

David Holden, the democratic candidate for congress in Florida's 19th district, hoped he would face off Congressman Francis Rooney during a public debate.

Two years ago, Rooney won the seat with more than 60% of votes. As Holden heads to Washington, D.C. Monday to rally support, he thinks he has a chance to beat Rooney. That's why he challenged him to a debate. However, Holden said Rooney declined his request. "Let's start with the basics: environment, healthcare, social security, medicare, our infrastructure," said Holden. "He [Rooney] said he had no availability, and no future availability."

4 In Your Corner spoke with FGCU Professor Peter Bergerson, who has taught political science and public administration through countless election cycles, about why a candidate may not choose to debate. He said an incumbent like Rooney may have more to lose debating by giving his opponent exposure. Dr. Bergerson is not associated with either candidate. "The person who does not want to debate is obviously leading in the polls, most likely the incumbent," he said. "The likelihood of any risk to his campaign, no use taking it."

Dr. Bergerson explains a newer candidate, like Holden, likely wants exposure for their campaign. "What debates will really do will remind voters, especially undecided voters, who the candidates are," he said.

Holden believes there is value in debating not just for the voters, but for candidates too. "Debates are not just for candidates to talk, they're for candidates to listen to the concerns of people and their community, to understand what the challenges are, what the opportunities are, and how we can work together to solve critical problems," he said. "If you don't allow yourself to be part of that process, you're missing out and you're doing a disservice to the people who you say you represent."

4 In Your Corner reached out to Congressman Francis Rooney's campaign for comment on this story, but have not heard back. We will provide updates as we get new information.