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Debates canceled after both Senate and House candidates unable to agree to rules

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Senate candidate David Sanders speaking during a press conference Thursday (Ben Thorp/WBAA News)

Two debates between candidates of two key political districts in west central Indiana have been canceled after parties couldn’t agree to a common set of rules.

The event, put on by the League of Women Voters and local TV station WLFI, would have included candidates from both House District 26 and Senate District 23.

At issue was a set of rules that would have allowed party chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties to be part of the committee that finalized questions.

Democratic candidate for District 23 David Sanders, during a press event Thursday, said his opponent, Republican Spencer Deery, backed out of the debate before he could even agree to those terms.

“One would have thought he would have more to gain from a debate than I would,” he said. “People in the TV-18 viewing area, people in the West Lafayette viewing area, tend to know me more than my opponent.”

In a written statement, Deery said that his team decided his time was better spent meeting district voters after “it became clear that it would be a very different gathering than the one that was first proposed.”

“There is no substitute for direct interaction with voters and that’s my priority,” Deery concluded.

Current Democratic Representative for House District 26 Chris Campbell said she agreed to an initial set of rules - but did not want party chairs involved in the process because it would have led to candidates having questions ahead of time.

“The Republican candidates come in with prepared statements and they are basically reading,” she said. “I don’t think that is necessary.”

Campbell’s Republican opponent, Fred Duttlinger, said it was important for party chairs to be present to avoid any appearance of bias.

“It’s troubling that she believes that one or both of the party chairs would divulge the questions to the possible candidate,” he said.

A spokesperson for the League of Women Voters said that in the case of both debates, candidates could not agree to a common set of terms.