Sen. Coons skipping UD debate

DOVER — Sen. Chris Coons will not be taking part in the University of Delaware’s biennial debate.

The university’s Center for Political Communication announced Monday night that Sen. Coons, a Democrat seeking reelection, has opted against participating in the Oct. 14 candidate faceoff against Republican nominee Lauren Witzke.

Chris Coons

In a statement Tuesday, Sen. Coons’ campaign explained why.

“The Republican nominee has been criticized widely for supporting the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory, posting racist memes, and allying herself with white nationalists and anti-Semites. Senator Coons debated her on September 22, 2020, and he will not take part in any additional debates,” campaign manager Christy Gleason said.

“As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Coons is focused on the debate over replacing Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg and protecting the future of the United States Supreme Court. He is equally focused on delivering for his constituents and passing more COVID-19 stimulus for American families and small business owners.”

Sen. Coons sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is set to begin hearings on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett Oct. 12.

His chief electoral opponent this fall, Ms. Witzke, is a political newcomer who has quickly become a firebrand. As noted by the Coons’ campaign, she has expressed support for a baseless conspiracy theory that paints President Donald Trump as one of the few forces fighting pedophile Democrats and their allies in Hollywood and was indeed criticized by many, including the state GOP chairwoman, earlier this month for posting a meme about the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

She’s also received support from far-right website VDARE, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a hate group.

On Sept. 22, both Ms. Witzke and Sen. Coons were among the participants in a virtual forum sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Delaware and Hadassah. The GOP nominee took numerous shots at him during the debate, including for his support for “terrorist organizations like Black Lives Matter.” Black Lives Matter is not classified as a terrorist organization on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations

The Senate race has evoked comparisons to the 2010 contest between then-New Castle County Executive Coons and controversial Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell.

Lauren Witzke

In a statement Tuesday, Ms. Witzke blasted Sen. Coons for skipping the UD event, also offering to debate him on a different date. She took issue with his campaign describing the prior candidate forum as a proper debate as well.

“I understand that Sen. Coons has responsibilities in Washington, D.C., but he also has a responsibility to the people of Delaware,” Ms. Witzke said.

“With his cancellation, he is bucking a longstanding tradition of answering to the voters in our state, and making his case for re-election. By refusing to answer to the voters of Delaware, Sen. Coons is proving yet again that he represents special interests in Washington, not the people who elected him.”