U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan told The Journal Times on Tuesday that he has not yet decided whether he’ll debate his Democratic congressional opponent in the district, but the odds seem slim.
Ryan, the Republican congressional representative whose district includes all of Racine County, is on the ballot twice, with a national bid to be the Republicans’ next vice president, and a local race for re-election as Wisconsin’s 1st District congressional representative. Local news outlets and groups, particularly Democratic congressional opponent Rob Zerban, have called on Ryan to join Zerban for a debate before the Nov. 6 election.
Speaking on the phone from a campaign bus in Iowa, Ryan said for now he’s focusing on a different debate — the Oct. 11 vice presidential face-off with current Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
Like Ryan, Biden also simultaneously ran for national and local office, and Biden, like a litany of other candidates running similar campaigns, did not debate his opponent for a U.S. Senate seat in Delaware, Republican Christine O’Donnell.
Ryan pointed this out Tuesday, saying, “The tradition with other campaigns ... was only to do the vice presidential debate.”
But, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the campaign for Zerban is preparing to deliver a 50,000-signature petition to the congressman’s Janesville office, demanding that Ryan return to the district for at least one debate.
Responding to Ryan’s comments, Zerban campaign manager Al Benninghoff said in an email, “Here’s the bridge — and Paul Ryan can either cross it now or burn it down. ... By continually claiming to be too busy for the people of southeast Wisconsin, Ryan’s effectively turned his back on them.”