Officers with the Utah League of Women Voters say Republican Rep. James Hansen has refused to debate his Democratic opponent at league-sponsored events, but Hansen's campaign manager blames a tight schedule.
Hansen has turned down league requests to debate Democratic opponent Kenley Brunsdale in Davis, Weber and Cache counties, said Terri McCulloch, league state co-president.McCulloch said repeated requests to Hansen's campaign manager Peter Jenks have either gone unanswered or have been rejected.
"I finally just told everybody to forget it," McCulloch said.
"Weber and Davis are just talking about Brunsdale coming to speak," she said. "But without Hansen we look like we are pro-Brunsdale, and we are just trying to educate the voters. That's what we are for."
Jenks denies that Hansen is avoiding the league.
"We have nothing against the League of Women Voters," Jenks said.
Hansen has committed to five debates: Oct. 12 before the Chamber of Ogden and Weber counties; Oct. 17 before the Bountiful Chamber; Oct. 21 at KUTV; Oct. 26 at KUED-TV; and Nov. 1 at KALL Radio.
"We want to schedule the high-profile (media) debates as much as possible," Jenks said.
Jenks said Hansen faces a tight congressional schedule that restricts his campaigning to the last two weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Meantime, he said Hansen will send aides to represent him when he is unable to attend debates.
Jenks also charged that the group has become partisan and said at least one official has Democratic leanings.
"You claim to be a non-partisan organization, yet we know that you are responding directly to a specific request from Mr. Brunsdale to hold a debate," Jenks said in a letter to Davis County league president Meg Mayer.
"If she (Mayer) claims to be non-partisan, why is she responding to a debate that Kenley Brunsdale's people requested initially?" Jenks said in an interview.
Mayer said the league, not Bruns-dale, asked for the debate.
"I've never talked personally to Brunsdale," Mayer said. She said the only contact the league has had with Brunsdale was when it called his campaign manager to set up the debate.