The Republican nominee competing for the open seat in Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District declined an invitation to take part in a chamber-sponsored candidate forum scheduled next week.
Alisha Tanksley, vice president of the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce and marketing, said Markwayne Mullin backed out earlier this week.
“His campaign asked if they could send a proxy,” Tanksley said. “But it has always been the policy of the chamber at our candidate forums to not allow anybody to stand in for the candidate.”
The forum has been in the works since the first part of the month. The event was designed to give the four candidates competing for two state legislative posts — House District 14 and Senate District 9 — and the three congressional candidates a chance to debate the issues.
Mullin’s decision drew criticism from his opponents, who say the Westville businessman has dodged almost every opportunity to debate the issues in public. Tim Ross, Mullin’s campaign manager, said the GOP candidate has “participated in joint appearances” and likely would attend “one or two more” before the Nov. 6 election.
“Markwayne has been working day and night traveling throughout the district to meet with voters and visit with them about the important issues that face our country,” Ross said. “Obviously, it is impossible to attend every single event in a 26-county district, so scheduling conflicts prevent us from participating in many of the events we would like to attend.”
Michael G. Fulks, who is competing in the three-way race as an independent on a shoestring budget, said Mullin has “evaded talking with the voters from the beginning.”
“It has become obvious he does not understand the issues and hopes to avoid being asked difficult questions,” Fulks said after Mullin failed to appear this week at a candidate forum in McAlester. “For someone who asks to be a public servant, to avoid the public is a ridiculous situation. Fortunately, the voters see this now before any major harm could be done in Washington.”
Democratic contender Rob Wallace echoed Fulks’ remarks, saying Mullin “continues to disappoint.”
“Markwayne Mullin is hiding from his record of caving in to Washington, D.C., and other interest groups to do their bidding to end Medicare for seniors and sell Oklahoma’s water while also hypocritically profiting from the Obama stimulus funds,” Wallace said. “If he had good answers on these issues he would debate.”
Wallace said he would like Mullin to explain “why he disagrees with Mitt Romney and doesn’t believe in using e-verify ... to make sure he doesn’t hire illegal immigrants.” Wallace also wants an explanation from Mullin about hiring practices that could result with “dangerous criminals” being sent into “his customer’s homes.”
Ross tried to turn the tables, saying Wallace needs to explain why he refuses to stake out a public position on the controversial Affordable Care Act. The two major-party candidates may get a chance in the only televised debate scheduled for this race. The 30-minute debate, scheduled at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Rogers State University campus in Claremore, will pit the two candidates eight days before the general election.
Fulks, who said the district needs “to send a strong and independent voice to Washington, not someone who has been corrupted by special interests,” was not invited to participate in the RSU debate.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.
If you go
WHO: Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce.
WHAT: Candidate forum for state House District 14, state Senate District 9 and the 2nd Congressional District of Oklahoma.
WHEN: 7:30 a.m. Oct. 25.
WHERE: Brackeen Center at Indian Capital Technology Center, Muskogee.