Northam and Gillespie

Northam (left) and Gillespie

The debate over debates in Virginia’s gubernatorial race flared anew Friday evening, as Democrat Ralph Northam responded to Republican Ed Gillespie’s push for 10 debates by proposing three, plus seven joint appearances.

Gillespie termed that offer “insulting” to Virginia’s voters.

Gillespie, whose competitors in the GOP primary accused him of avoiding them in an effort to run out the clock, on Monday proposed 10 general election debates.

After pressuring the lieutenant governor for four days to respond, the Gillespie camp on Thursday released a list of 10 debate invitations from outside groups that he has accepted. The proposed debate sponsors ranged from the Virginia Bar Association to TV stations, regional chambers of commerce and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

After 5 p.m. Friday, Northam’s campaign announced a “commitment to three debates and seven joint appearances” without specifying sponsors whose invitations he would accept.

“If Mr. Gillespie had been serious about his proposal, he would have reached out to us directly prior to attempting to negotiate through the media,” Northam’s campaign said in its statement.

Gillespie retorted: “Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s long-awaited response of only three debates is insulting to voters across the commonwealth. With so many serious issues at stake, Virginians deserve to hear the clear differences between us. The lieutenant governor debated his primary opponent five times, so why debate so few times in the general election?”

In the 2009 campaign for governor, Republican Bob McDonnell proposed 10 debates with Democrat R. Creigh Deeds. They ultimately faced off in four. Gillespie was general chairman of McDonnell’s campaign.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli debated three times in the 2013 campaign for governor.

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acain@timesdispatch.com

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