Potential debate dates cause consternation among CD 27 candidates

Maria Elvira Salazar Donna Shalala

With fewer than six weeks until Election Day, the candidates in Florida’s 27th Congressional District have still not nailed down a firm date for a single debate.

That’s despite Democratic nominee Donna Shalala and Republican candidate Maria Elvira Salazar expressing weeks ago the desire to join together for a discussion of the issues.

Both candidates maintain their desire to sit down together in comments made to Florida Politics.

“I look forward to debating my opponent,” Shalala said. “I’m not dodging debates or forums. I stand up for what I believe. If Maria Elvira Salazar will not stand up to me, how can voters count on her to stand up to Trump?”

To that, the Shalala campaign listed more than half a dozen debates and forums to be held in the coming weeks which Shalala has committed to attending.

But representatives from the Salazar campaign call allegations she’s “dodging” debates “absolutely false.”

Jose Luis Castillo, a spokesperson for Salazar, pointed to three debates the former Telemundo and CNN en Español anchor has agreed to. One would be aired on Univision, the second on Telemundo, and the third on WPLG’s This Week in South Florida.

Mike Hernandez, a Shalala spokesperson, confirmed discussions have been held with both Univision and Telemundo. But thus far, the candidates appear unable to agree on a suitable date and time.

Florida Politics contacted Univision and Telemundo for information on where those negotiations stand, and is awaiting a reply.

Regarding the potential meeting on WPLG, the Salazar campaign says they have agreed to sit down on Oct. 28, just a week and a half before Election Day after after early voting has begun. But it appears they backed off an agreement for an earlier appearance.

Shalala already sat down with This Week in South Florida hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg on last Sunday’s program.

During that discussion, Putney said, “We invited Maria Elvira to come and be part of this conversation. And her campaign considered it and said we’ll do one debate on Channel 10, on This Week in South Florida. We would rather do it Oct. 7. So she was invited, chose not to be here.”

But again, according to the Salazar campaign, that Oct. 7 date is also now a no-go, with the campaign requesting a sit-down on the Oct. 28.

Constituents in CD 27 are likely hungry for a debate, given that both women are first-time congressional candidates.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a familiar face who has served the district for decades, chose not to run for re-election, making this an open race.

And this is not some district where one party or the other has the race in the bag and stands to gain nothing from a debate.

While FiveThirtyEight is bullish on Shalala’s chances, other analysts are far more skeptical this race is a runaway for either candidate.

And though the district has long been represented by a Republican in Ros-Lehtinen, voters handed the district to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].

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