Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde Tuesday took former Gov. Tommy Thompson to task Tuesday for not appearing at a candidates forum in Madison.
Hovde, who is opposing Thompson and two other Republicans in the Senate primary, said the no-show is denying voters the chance to hear where the former governor stands on fiscal issues.
“It’s certainly disappointing that, once again, Gov. Thompson is denying Wisconsin voters a good, honest debate," Hovde campaign press secretary Sean Lansing said in a statement.
Thompson, along with Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, will not participate in Dane County Young Republicans event on Tuesday night.
The event, originally designed as a debate between the four candidates, is now a forum with only former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann and Hovde participating.
"With record high spending, crushing debt and tax rates that are set to skyrocket, folks deserve to know where a governor who increased state spending by 118 percent while raising taxes and fees by millions and increasing our debt by $1.8 billion stands on these issues,” Lansing added.
Thompson campaign turns tables
However, the Thompson campaign fired back by calling Hovde's comments hypocritical since Hovde missed an earlier candidates forum.
"Hovde's criticism is hypocritical, as he blew off Wisconsin Right to Life, refusing to participate in their April 28th debate," said Thompson spokesman Darrin Schmitz in a statement. "All of the Republican U.S. Senate candidate's participated in the pro-life debate except for Hovde."
In terms of letting voters know where Thompson stands on fiscal issues, Schmitz said:
"Tommy Thompson delivered historic tax relief by picking up two-thirds the cost of education, which Hovde counts as a rise in government spending. Thompson also capped property taxes and implemented the QEO as well as used his veto pen a record 1,900 times to cut $287 million in spending."
David Summers, spokesperson for the GOP group, said Thompson and Fitzgerald will not attend due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts.
But Lansing wasn't buying that.
"That has been (Thompson's) standard line every time something like this has come up," Lansing said Tuesday afternoon during a phone interview. "I have it on good authority from a couple of people involved in their organization that as soon as he found out that Eric was confirmed, he backed out."
As Hovde and Neumann discuss their positions on key issues and answer pre-submitted questions during the forum, Fitzgerald will hold a fundraiser in Oconomowoc this evening, according to Wispolitics.com.
Thompson's evening plans are unknown and his campaign did not return calls seeking comment.
Thompson also did not attend a debate in April in Waukesha. According to the Hovde campaign, the Republican U.S. Senate candidates will debate again July 30.
Hovde's comments on poor spark controversy
Hovde created a stir of his own during the last couple of days when he said the media should stop writing about the plight of poor people and concentrate more on the broad fiscal issues such as waste, fraud and government spending that continue to perplex lawmakers and policymakers.
His comments, first reported by The Huffington Post, were made at an event in Brookfield on Friday. And Democrats wasted no time reacting to the statement.
"It’s important to keep in mind that these were the comments of a multmillionaire, hedge fund banker who has spent the last 24 years in Washington," said the campaign for Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin.
"He has shown no interest in working across party lines to strengthen the economic security of Wisconsin’s middle-class and is instead supporting the failed policies of the past that benefited a few, crashed our economy and devastated the middle class," Baldwin's campaign added.
Lansing said the claim that Hovde does not care about poor people is "ridiculous."
"What you saw was politics as usual," said Lansing, referring to the video clip that shows Hovde making his remarks. "They tried to turn it into this guy (being) anti-poor when nothing could be further from the truth."
A Rasmussen poll released late last week showed Thompson ahead of Baldwin 52 to 36 percent. The public opinion poll showed the other three Republican candidates are virtually tied with Baldwin.
The Republican primary is Aug. 14, with the winner to face Baldwin in the Nov. 6 general election.