Fresno Democrat TJ Cox has responded to Rep. David Valadao’s debate challenge with three new challenges of his own, as the two sides jockey for favorable ground on which to battle.
In a Tuesday morning news release, Cox challenged the Hanford Republican to debate publicly in Delano, Lemoore and Mendota. The first two debates would be in English, with a Spanish debate set for Mendota.
On Monday, Valadao threw down the gantlet for two televised debates, one in English and one in Spanish, on local NBC affiliates and Telemundo. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations for televised debates say the move stunned the Cox campaign and the debates’ organizers, as terms were still being worked out.
It is unusual for a sitting incumbent to be the first to challenge for a debate, as incumbents typically have a lot more to lose.
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Cox’s proposal differs from Valadao’s in both venue and terms. Cox is asking for debates open to the public, while Valadao proposes meeting in a Bakersfield TV studio with no audience for recorded debates to be televised at a later date.
Cox’s campaign says it chose Delano for its legacy as the birthplace of the United Farm Workers of America. Lemoore was chosen due to West Hills College’s place in Kings County education, while Mendota “has been ground zero for water and immigration.”
“The voters of the 21st Congressional District deserve the opportunity to hear directly from the candidates running to represent them in Congress,” the news release says.
The campaign says Cox is open to evaluating other “fair and balanced debate requests as received that will ensure maximum accessibility for the people of the 21st Congressional District.”
The news release does not respond directly to Valadao’s challenge and terms.
Valadao campaign spokesman Cole Rojewski responded to Cox’s challenge in a statement sent to The Bee, saying “Rep. Valadao has already invited Mr. Cox to debate in both English and Spanish and eagerly awaits his response.”