The two major party candidates running for Maryland's open Senate seat agreed Wednesday to two broadcast debates and a handful forums after a contentious negotiation that broke down late last month.
Democratic nominee Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Republican nominee Del. Kathy Szeliga, who are running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, will debate on WAMU-FM on Oct. 7 and on WJZ-TV on Oct. 26.
Unlike during the Democratic primary -- when aides to Van Hollen and Rep. Donna F. Edwards worked behind the scenes on a debate schedule and made a joint announcement -- the candidates in the general election stopped negotiating in August.
The only confirmed television debate so far will be sponsored by WJZ-TV, The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore. It will broadcast on WJZ on Oct. 26 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The radio debate will take place during the Kojo Nnamdi Show at noon on WAMU.
At least one additional broadcast debate is still under negotiations.
Szeliga's campaign said it had agreed to two television debates not yet accepted by Van Hollen: One hosted by WBAL-TV and Maryland Public Television scheduled for Sept. 27 and another on WJLA-TV and WBFF-TV, with a date to be determined.
It is not yet clear whether Green Party candidate Margaret Flowers will participate in the broadcast debates. The sponsors of the WJZ debate have said candidates must have support from at least 15 percent of voters in independent polling to take part.
A WAMU official said the station set its threshold at 10 percent.
The only poll conducted so far in the Senate race, by Annapolis-based OpinionWorks, found Van Hollen leading Szeliga 29 points. The poll did not ask respondents about Flowers.
The candidates announced a slew of other forums that they had agreed to individually, including one organized by the Maryland Federation of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association and AARP Maryland, which will take place on Saturday from 2:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College.
The only other forum both candidates agreed to is the African Americans in Howard County Maryland 2016 General Election Forum on Oct. 8.
Despite broad agreement on several debates there was some dissension between the candidates. A Szeliga aide criticized Van Hollen for not attending a debate sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce on the Eastern Shore.
"Career politician Chris Van Hollen knows that he votes against Maryland businesses every chance he gets and that's why he's terrified to show up to the Chamber of Commerce forum," said Szeliga campaign spokeswoman Leslie Shedd.
A Van Hollen aide said the candidate had a scheduling conflict and is sending a surrogate in his place. The campaign pointed to a recent endorsement by the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce.
"Chris works every day to support businesses in our state and regularly meets with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which is why his local chamber gave him their Legislator of the Year Award," said Van Hollen spokeswoman Bridgett Frey.