Will Zerban, Ryan debate take place?
JANESVILLE Rob Zerban wants to debate his opponent in the Nov. 6 elections, but it’s unclear whether that will happen.
Zerban is the Kenosha Democrat who is running against Rep. Paul Ryan, R-1st District.
Problem is, the longtime congressman also is running for vice president. Ryan will be campaigning nationally and debating Vice President Joe Biden.
Zerban broached the subject of a debate on some online news outlets this week.
“If he’s going to run for both offices, then he should come and debate me, and not just Joe Biden,” Zerban told Esquire magazine’s “The Politics Blog.”
A Ryan spokesman left the door open to a congressional debate.
“Paul has never shied away for having an adult conversation about the issues our nation faces,” wrote Kevin Seifert in a series of email exchanges with The Gazette.
“Congressman Ryan’s schedule for September and October has not yet been determined, given Saturday’s announcement (that Ryan will be Mitt Romney’s running mate). It’s a scheduling matter, not a matter of willingness,” Seifert added.
“Rob is challenging Ryan to debate him,” Zerban spokesman Karthik Ganapathy confirmed.
Ganapathy said the Zerban campaign has not sent that challenge to the Ryan campaign. He said a news outlet, the Mount Pleasant-Sturtevant Patch, would.
Patch Editor Heather Asiyanbi said she contacted both campaigns this summer, before the vice presidential announcement, and offered to sponsor a debate.
Asiyanbi said the Ryan campaign gave her a tentative date of Oct. 11.
Asiyanbi said she doesn’t know how feasible a debate is now. She hasn’t contacted either campaign since the vice presidential announcement.
Some might say a debate would lend legitimacy and publicity to Zerban at a time the national spotlight is focused on Ryan. But longtime political observer and UW-Whitewater professor emeritus John Kozlowicz said a debate could help Ryan.
“It does clear him a little bit on this absentee-campaign charge,” Kozlowicz said.
Kozlowicz said it would be fairly easy for Ryan to piggyback a debate or 1st District appearance on top of a vice presidential stop in Wisconsin or elsewhere in the Midwest.
Debate or not, Kozlowicz said the well ensconced congressman should have little difficulty defeating Zerban.
“I think he probably could get elected without himself doing much,” and it’s likely some of his political staff will do some campaigning, he said.
If Ryan wins both races on the Nov. 6 ballot, state law requires the congressional win be voided. The governor would call a special election, probably sometime next spring, said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board.
Seifert noted Ryan did not neglect the district in the weeks preceding Romney’s announcement.
“He has spent much of the spring and summer months in Wisconsin—holding listening sessions in May, supporting Gov. Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republican candidates in June, attending multiple Fourth of July parades and county fairs and frequently meeting 1st District residents to hear about their concerns,” Seifert wrote.
“Janesville is Paul’s home,” he added. “… We look forward to welcoming him back to the Badger State again soon.”