Adding a new element to his repeated calls for a series of debates with Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Democratic 4th District congressional candidate Eric Stewart announced a new website designed to allow voters to add their voice to his challenge.
The site, Need4Debate.com, was launched by the Stewart campaign Tuesday morning. Along with a punch list of Stewart-criticized items and votes cast by the congressman during his first term, the site also includes a petition visitors can sign calling for him to debate his opponent.
It also features a button that users can click to donate to the Stewart campaign.
Speaking to supporters in Murfreesboro Tuesday, Stewart responded to an email he received from DesJarlais Sunday, in which the congressman rejected Stewart's offer to debate. DesJarlais cited his opponent's "lack of clarity on the issues" as a reason for declining and said he would not rule out the possibility of debates in the future.
"Congressman DesJarlais has essentially said there aren't issues to discuss," Stewart said. "I couldn't disagree more. We should talk about DesJarlais' vote to betray working families in in this district and his vote to break the promises we have made our seniors by ending Medicare. Congressman DesJarlais even voted to require working men and women to work an extra five years until they reach the age of 70 to be eligible to receive Social Security benefits."
Stewart did not clarify which specific pieces of legislation he was referring to. The candidate also said he would be willing to debate the congressman at "any time and place" and suggested DesJarlais participate in an event sponsored by the Southern Standard, a McMinnville newspaper, on Oct. 11.
Responding through campaign spokesman Brandon Lewis, the DesJarlais campaign pointed to recent voter tallies from the 4th District primary to suggest that voters were not interested in Stewart's alternative to the congressman.
"Eric Stewart received less than 27 percent of the primary vote while running unopposed because he failed to put forth any substantive platform or outline where he stands on key issues," Lewis said. "He even refuses to let 4th District voters know who he believes should lead us as president during this critical point in our nation's history. It seems that his desperation will drive him to any length short of thoughtful consideration about what it would take to solve our nation's problems."
Campaign finance records show DesJarlais holding a cash-on-hand advantage over Stewart, with more than $590,000 to put toward his re-election efforts. At last report, Stewart showed more than $152,000 cash-on-hand.
The general election is Nov. 6.