Months ahead of voting day, Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) has effectively declared the Republican U.S. Senate primary over, declining an invitation to participate in a televised debate with his opponent George LeMieux.
"It’s clear the race for the U.S. Senate in Florida is now between Connie Mack, the Republican, and Bill Nelson, the Democrat," Mack's campaign manager Jeff Cohen wrote in a letter to the Tampa Bay Times. "A primary debate among Republicans would only serve to benefit Bill Nelson," Cohen wrote, adding it "makes all the sense in the world" for Mack to start debating Nelson.
Nelson's office did not immediately respond to a phone call for comment.
The Times sought to schedule the statewide televised debate for late July, but Mack -- who has faced attacks from LeMieux over his character and credentials -- may not want to risk his sizable lead in the polls.
That approach hasn't sat well with LeMieux.
"It's emblematic of his entire campaign -- he wants to hide from me, and he wants to be coronated," LeMieux told the Tampa Tribune.
Former state Attorney General Bill McCollum, a supporter of Mack, questioned the decision as well.
"I personally always believe candidates should participate in debates, but this is the campaign's choice, not mine or anyone else's," McCollum said. "My view is that candidates should participate as fully as possible in public debates."
The primary will take place on August 14.
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