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Donna Edwards calls for six debates with Van Hollen

Rep. Donna F. Edwards , right, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen are both running for Senate.
Rep. Donna F. Edwards , right, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen are both running for Senate. (Baltimore Sun)

WASHINGTON — Let the debate over the debates begin.

Rep. Donna Edwards' campaign for Senate on Thursday called for six debates against her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, in the race for the Democratic nomination.

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Under Edwards' proposal, the two candidates would hold six hour-long debates split between Baltimore and the Washington suburbs. The first would take place in Baltimore.

"Given how the profound challenges facing Charm City gripped our state and the country, we owe the voters nothing less than a full and forthright discussion about how we would address the significant issues facing Maryland's largest city and her people," Edwards wrote in a letter to Van Hollen.

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Van Hollen's campaign offered a lukewarm response, declining to commit to Edwards' proposal.

"I am happy to have our respective campaigns discuss a debate plan," the congressman wrote in his letter. "I believe that debates are an important way to have a real discussion of the issues, without the influence of special interests."

Van Hollen then switched gears, reiterating his call for Edwards to take steps to ensure that third-party money is not spent on the race. Edwards has rejected that request, saying it would drown out groups like Emily's List that support her.

"You say this election should be about the future of our state, but I understand you are getting most of your financial support from outside of Maryland," he wrote.

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Edwards fired back, questioning Van Hollen's decision to open his letter with a discussion of his efforts to avoid a government shutdown this week.

"Rather than fill me in on his schedule and punt the decision to staff, I would've hoped he'd have said 'yes, of course,'" she said in a statement.

Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, and Edwards have engaged in increasingly feisty exchanges in which both have tried to court the left wing of the party.

Edwards called for the debates to begin in November, that at least two be broadcast in each media market, that they be streamed online and that at least one be hosted by African American media.

The two Democrats are running for the seat that will be left vacant by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski's retirement in 2017. The primary is set for April 26.

Meanwhile, a Belvedere Square pediatrician seeking the Green Party nomination, Margaret Flowers, launched a petition to debate that she be included in any debates that feature both Democratic and Republican candidates.

"Marylanders deserve to hear from an independent voice talking about the issues they care about," she said in a statement.

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