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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, March 10, 2018 1:00 am

Rokita backs out of televised debate

Schedule, worry over questions prompted move

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita has decided to skip a televised debate planned for next month with the two other candidates seeking the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

The nonprofit Indiana Debate Commission announced Friday that U.S. Rep. Luke Messer and former state Rep. Mike Braun had agreed to the April 30 debate.

The debate will come the week before the May 8 primary that will determine the GOP challenger to Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.

Rokita's campaign says it believes GOP primary debates should be hosted by conservative and Republican organizations and not involve what it calls “leftist propaganda and gotcha questions from liberal media figures.” According to a news release from the commission, Rokita's campaign manager, Bryan Reed, also cited scheduling conflicts.

Rokita is the first candidate in the IDC's 10-year history to decline to participate in one of its debates, according to a news release. “We are very pleased that two candidates have agreed to this debate, but we are equally disappointed that one has opted to decline,” IDC President Gerry Lanosga said in the release.

The Indiana Debate Commission event is being moderated by conservative Indianapolis radio commentator Abdul Hakim-Shabazz.

Rokita also announced Friday in a campaign statement that he will be participating in the Allen County GOP U.S. Senate Debate, which will take place at 7 p.m. April 23 at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, 305 E. Washington Center Road. That debate will be moderated by WOWO's Pat Miller.

Rokita said in the statement, “I look forward to sharing why Hoosiers need to send a pro-Trump conservative fighter to the U.S. Senate. It is critical that Hoosier conservatives know who is the strongest candidate to defeat Joe Donnelly.”

Jessica Garvin of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.