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Montana U.S. Senate candidates trade barbs over debate plans

Matt Rosendale and Jon Tester

Montana's GOP nominee for U.S. Senate is turning down a debate with incumbent Sen. Jon Tester.

The planned debate between Matt Rosendale and Tester would have been hosted this Sunday in Whitefish by the Montana Broadcasters Association.

Monday morning the association told us Rosendale declined to appear.

Within minutes, Tester’s campaign issued the following statement: “Whatever the excuse is, it's disappointing. This debate is a Montana tradition, but of course Montana traditions mean nothing to Maryland Matt. Montana voters can't trust Matt Rosendale to keep his word, but Jon Tester will be in Whitefish whether Matt Rosendale is there or not."

Just last week, Rosendale told us he would definitely make the broadcasters debate. In a phone interview last Wednesday Rosendale said, “You'll see me in Whitefish; I just hope that everyone is going to be able to participate and that Jon Tester isn't able to control this thing and keep the other parties from participating."

After Rosendale said that we called the Montana Broadcasters Association. A spokesman told us Rosendale is not right about the exclusion of third-party candidates and pointed to the group’s criteria for debate participation.

Now, just days later, Rosendale’s campaign sticks with this week's decision not to participate Sunday.

His campaign issued this statement: "Jon Tester is, of course, not telling the truth. This debate was scheduled and organized without any input or agreement to attend from our campaign – and it was scheduled on Father’s Day. We didn’t agree to attend since Matt is spending the day with his wife and sons, and he's not moving that around, nor should he. The question to Jon Tester: Is he going to accept Matt's five debate challenge or not? Tester has a lot to explain to the people of Montana for his anti-Trump, liberal obstructionist agenda."

Rosendale issued a five debate challenge earlier Monday, but no dates for those debates were proposed.

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