2nd District candidates near agreement on debates

photo by: Contributed and AP photos

Steve Watkins, left, and Paul Davis, right,

TOPEKA – The two major candidates in the 2nd District congressional race said Thursday that they have accepted invitations to three debates before the Nov. 6 general election. The only problem is, they aren’t the exact same list of debates.

Republican Steve Watkins and Democrat Paul Davis both said they had accepted invitations to a televised debate on WIBW-TV in Topeka on Oct. 18 and another on KTWU-TV in Topeka, which is set for either Oct. 17 or Oct. 27.

But the two campaigns have different ideas for a third debate. Watkins is proposing an Oct. 9 event hosted by the Topeka Independent Business Association, while Davis is proposing one on Oct. 3 in southeast Kansas to be hosted by a number of county Farm Bureau associations.

“We can obviously work through some of the details here, but I also think it’s important for us to have a debate in southeast Kansas,” Davis said during a news conference.

The 2nd District covers most of the eastern third of Kansas with the exception of Johnson and Wyandotte counties and a small portion of Miami County.

Whatever the final schedule, the debates will mark the first face-to-face public appearances by the two candidates since the Aug. 7 primary.

Davis, a former member of the Kansas Legislature from Lawrence and the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Watkins, an Army veteran from Topeka and a political newcomer in Kansas, survived a seven-person primary with 27 percent of the vote in a race that also included three incumbent state senators, an incumbent state representative, a former speaker of the Kansas House and a city council member from Basehor.

The race is one of dozens of swing districts around the country that could determine which political party controls the U.S. House for the next two years. Davis carried the district by seven percentage points in his unsuccessful 2014 bid for governor. But Republican Donald Trump carried it by 18 points in the 2016 presidential election.

For that reason, the race has also attracted large amounts of third-party independent expenditures. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has invested in TV ads on behalf of Davis, while the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund have both invested heavily on behalf of Watkins.

A recent New York Times-Siena College poll showed the race as a statistical dead heat, with Davis at 45 percent, Watkins at 44 percent and 12 percent undecided.

Libertarian candidate Kelly Standley, of St. Paul, will also be on the ballot in the 2nd District.


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