Inside and outside of Oakland

Debate over debates continues in secretary of state race

  Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, said Tuesday she called her Republican opponent, Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, at her work and campaign offices to ask Johnson to agree to debate.
  Benson's campaign said it was unable to reach Johnson at either location.

  "Over two weeks ago I challenged Johnson to three public debates," Benson said in a release. "As of 3 p.m. today, we still do not have a date on the calendar or even an agreement to debate in principle."
  "I believe Michigan voters deserve this opportunity to learn where we stand on the issues. I’ve tried to contact Ruth myself and I’ll continue to do so until I get an answer,” Benson said.
  Mark Totten, Benson’s campaign manager, said, "It’s not that we’re hung up on the details — we can’t even get Johnson to say yes."
  Johnson's campaign spokesman Larry Ward said negotiations for a debate are ongoing.
  "We've been conversing with the Benson lawyers for the debate negotiations so that is an ongoing process," Ward said. "We are in the process of preparing a counter proposal on the debates.
  "To date, there have been two debates or forums where they've been together," he said. "There will be a debate coming up."
  Benson's release follows an exchange over the weekend between gubernatorial candidates Republican Rick Snyder and Democrat Virg Bernero in which both accused the other of scuttling debates.
Bernero showed up at a Snyder town hall event Monday evening in Westland and the two shared the same stage for awhile.
  Ward said Johnson and Benson have appeared together at the Women's Officials Network in Birmingham June 11, an event broadcast on local cable, and at an annual meeting of state clerks in Mount Pleasant on June 23.
  "The part they keep leaving out is that there's an Oakland County Clerk's quarterly meeting coming up Sept. 29," Ward said.
  Benson and Johnson are both scheduled to appear there at the 11:30 event at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester Hills.
 "We are willing to do more," Ward said.
Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, charlie.crumm@oakpress.com or follow him on Twitter @crummc.

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