Campbell challenges Rep. Siegrist to public debate

Will there be a public debate in the District 26 State Representative race? Right now, it doesn't look promising.

Posted: Sep 3, 2018 5:53 PM
Updated: Sep 3, 2018 6:33 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Some say debates are the best way to get to know a candidate. Democrat Chris Campbell hopes she'll get the chance to debate her opponent this fall.

She's facing incumbent Republican State Representative Sally Siegrist.

While meeting potential voters, Chris Campbell often gets the same questions.

"When a debate will be? If one is being scheduled?" said Campbell. "And when I tell them that my opponent has refused to debate me they're very disappointed and surprised that she's not willing to debate me."

Incumbent Republican State Representative Sally Siegrist didn't want to go on camera. However, she said she's not refusing to debate Campbell.

Siegrist said she hasn't been able to find time in her schedule and she can't take time off from her legislative duties or serving her constituents, which makes her free-time limited.

The League of Women Voters has been working with her for weeks to try to set up a date. We're told she refused any days in October and denied six proposed days in September.

"I would like the opportunity to debate my opponent," said Campbell. "I would like the voters to have a chance to ask us questions."

News 18 also offered to host a District 26 debate. Siegrist said she doesn't want to do one on weekends and said October is out of the question. We asked her to let us know if any weekdays in September would work. We're waiting to hear back.

"We need to make ourselves available, it's only an hour," said Campbell. 

Incumbents refusing or not finding time to debate is something former Indy Star Political Reporter Mary Beth Schneider said is common.

"They don't want to get asked those questions, they don't want to put their opponent on an equal footing," said Schneider. 

However, it frustrates her as a former journalist and current voter.

"People deserve to hear what each of these candidates stand for and get asked sometimes some difficult questions," said Schneider. 

Campbell sent out a statement calling on Siegrist to agree to a debate.

In it, she called state representative a full-time job. According to the Indiana Constitution, it's part-time. However, Campbell doesn't see it that way.

"A voter is going to meet us on the street. Are we going to say we are not available right now I'm not on the clock? No," said Campbell. "So, it is a bit of a full-time job whether the constitution says it's a full-time job or not, I think we need to be available."

Campbell and Siegrist weren't the only candidates who couldn't agree on a debate time this season.

The League of Women Voters also reached out to candidates for State Senate District 22 and Indiana's 4th Congressional District. Both were unable or unwilling to debate.

However, we are likely to see a debate between the Tippecanoe County Sheriff candidates and those running for Tippecanoe County Clerk.

Details on those will be released soon.

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