THE BLOG
09/14/2010 11:43 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Conlin Threatens Grassley With 'The Empty Chair Routine"

Democratic Senate candidate Roxanne Conlin sent a fax Monday to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) inviting him to a debate Sept. 19 and warned the Senator she's ready to "do the empty chair routine" if he does not show.

Conlin has repeatedly pressed the incumbent Senator for debates, specifically saying she wants 12 Lincoln-Douglas style debates where the public could ask questions.

The Conlin campaign first mentioned going this route on Sept. 3 after it was reported the Senator's wife, Barbara Grassley, said Iowa Congressional Republican candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks should notify her opponent of a certain time, date and place for a debate and if he does not show, "do the empty chair routine."

The Grassley campaign announced last week Grassley agreed to a radio debate on WHO-AM radio on Oct. 28, but the Conlin campaign said she had a previous scheduled event. Though no campaign is listed on her public calendar on that day.

In the letter sent to Grassley's campaign, Paulee Lipsman, Conlin deputy campaign manager, wrote that the debate would be held at the Downtown Des Moines Public Library and last 90 minutes.

"We chose this date since this is the weekend of the Iowa Republican Party Reagan event and anticipate that you will be in Iowa to hear Sarah Palin speak," Lipsman wrote.

The Conlin campaign said in an email the event is open to the public, and a moderator has yet to be announced but it will be moderated with a panel.

Friday the two candidates faced off for the first time on Iowa Public Television in a joint appearance where Conlin quickly brought up the issue of arranging debates.

Grassley responded, "What are we doing here?" One of the interviewers said it was not a debate, it was an appearance.

"Oh, a forum," Grassley responded on the show. "She wants forums. Whatever you want to call them."

He then said a race was about issues and he's happy to talk to the press about them at any time.

"It's disappointing that Roxanne Conlin's claim that she would debate 'anytime, anywhere' doesn't include WHO Radio on Oct. 28," Grassley campaign manager Eric Woolson said in an email. "Sen. Grassley accepted that date, but the Conlin campaign staff insists they've already scheduled an event. A quick look at the Conlin campaign's website shows only one event scheduled for the month of October, and that one is on Oct. 17 so it would appear to me she simply doesn't want to accept that debate."

Conlin brought up the Friday appearance on Sunday at the Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa during her speech to the supporting crowd.

"As far as I know, he's not coming out of his house again," Conlin said Sunday. "He owes the people of Iowa a defense of his record."

Woolson said they have been working with the Conlin campaign and potential debate sponsors and will continue to do so.

"They know the Senate is going to be in session through Oct. 8," Woolson said in the Des Moines Register. "This is just another publicity stunt."