By HDN Staff
Democratic Senate candidate Brian Schweitzer has every right to be upset with the man he is trying to replace.
Incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns, with a whopping double-digit lead over Schweitzer firmly in hand, avoided a debate with his challenger at the recently held Montana Newspaper Convention.
Instead of attending the convention and debate, Burns was attending a fund-raiser in Virginia in an effort to build up his already overflowing $3 million political campaign war chest.
What does Schweitzer have to be mad about? Plenty.
Jim Fall, executive director of MNA, said Burns told him in April that he would attend, and the debate was even rescheduled to accommodate Burns' schedule. On May 24, Burns wrote to MNA saying he wouldn't participate because of a prior campaign commitment.''
Both of the GOP's candidates, Judy Martz in the gubernatorial race and Dennis Rehberg for the state's lone U.S. House of Representatives seat, attended the convention and debated with their opponents.
Martz, the lieutenant governor, squared off against Democrat challenger Mark O'Keefe Friday afternoon. Rehberg and Nancy Keenan, the superintendent of public instruction, debated immediately following the gubernatorial fireworks.
Schweitzer didn't have the opportunity to face opponent like his fellow democrats. But that didn't stop the Whitefish farmer from taking his fair share of political punches at the absent Burns.
Schweitzer accused Burns of taking a two-faced stance on the repeal of a federal gas tax, which provides millions of dollars and thousands of jobs in Montana, of voting against funding for essential air services in Montana, and of supporting the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of Montana senior citizens who require costly medicines.
Burns' defense to his absence was explained in a letter that he would rather debate Schweitzer in the fall "when voters in our state and elsewhere are paying attention to politics and campaigns.''
Senator, the people of Montana don't want to wait until the fall to hear from you.
But if you want to wait until the fall to debate, come to the northlands and debate in Havre. We know Schweitzer will be more than available for the Havre debate.