By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
MISSOULA – Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is crying foul after his November foe, Republican U.S. House Rep. Denny Rehberg, withdrew from a debate set for June 24 in Whitefish.
The withdrawal announcement came Friday, though Rehberg’s campaign says it never confirmed the debate.
The Montana Broadcasters Association is hosting the event and says it confirmed the June 24 date with Rehberg staffers several times in the past six months.
Upon hearing of Rehberg’s withdrawal, Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy pounced.
“On the morning of June 24, as Congressman Rehberg hides from Montanans, Jon will be highlighting his record of fighting for Montana values, making responsible decisions and defending our freedoms, Murphy wrote in prepared statement.
“Jon will also highlight Congressman Rehberg’s failed record — without him.”
Rehberg campaign manager Erik Iverson blasted MBA President Greg MacDonald for putting the congressman on the slate without confirmation.
“MacDonald has refused to provide any evidence of his claims because it simply does not exist,” Iverson wrote in an email to Watchdog.org.
“Unfortunately, MacDonald has refused to even discuss the schedule or take responsibility for his mistake, and now he is misleading his Association members, the news media, and Montana voters.”
MBA says it has an internal memo showing confirmation, but has not released it to the public. MBA and Rehberg’s camp are said to be working out a compromise to move the event to later in the day, but no agreement has been reached.
The dust-up comes mere hours before Rehberg and Tester take part in their first debate since winning their respective party nominations in the June 5 primary elections.
The duo, along with Darby Libertarian Dan Cox, will mix it up Saturday in Big Sky at the annual Montana Newspaper Association convention.
Tester and Cox are still set for the June 24 match in Whitefish.