Two state lawmakers who will face off in a recall election traded blows Tuesday after one accused the other of not responding to a debate challenge.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin issued a press release Tuesday that accused Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, of ignoring a request from his challenger to participate in at least three debates.
State Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, is challenging Olsen for his Senate seat after about 24,000 people signed a petition to remove the senator. An election is anticipated in July.
Early last week Clark publicly challenged Olsen to participate in at least three debates before the election.
"I still have not received any calls or emails from Luther Olsen or his campaign," Clark said in the release from the Democratic Party.
Clark said although Olsen told media outlets he would be open to the debates, the senator has "ignored numerous contacts" asking him to commit to the idea.
Olsen's campaign manager, Jeff Weigand, shot back Tuesday afternoon in a news release of his own, calling Clark's accusation "ridiculous."
"The Olsen campaign never received a sigle (sic) phone call or e-mail inviting Sentor (sic) Olsen to a debate," Weigand said in the release. He said the senator first learned of the challenge when reporters contacted his campaign to request a comment.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Clark said Weigand's statement was not accurate.
Clark said he called Olsen's personal cell phone and left a message about his debate challenge the day before publicly announcing it. He said he also emailed Olsen and his campaign treasurer.
At the request of the News Republic, Clark provided a copy of that email, which appears to have been sent to Olsen's personal email account May 24. The email also appears to have been sent to the address of Olsen's campaign treasurer, Joan Wade.
The News Republic forwarded the email to Weigand and requested clarification regarding his assertion that Clark did not reach out to Olsen's campaign. Weigand did not respond to an email or phone call requesting comment.
In his news release, Weigand said Olsen has a very busy schedule as a member of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee and as chair of the Senate Education Committee.
"I realize he's busy, but the fact of the matter is I'm still waiting for him to return my phone call," Clark said in an interview Tuesday. "I don't know his campaign manager. All I can say is we made this invitation. I initiated it personally over a week ago... I'd much rather have a real debate than have debating press releases."
Olsen, whose district includes Baraboo and eastern Sauk County, was targeted for recall because of his support of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to revoke nearly all collective bargaining rights from public employees.
Three Democrats and six Republicans have been targeted for recall because of their support or opposition to the bill.
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