Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) has declined an invitation to debate Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff ahead of January runoff elections for both of the state’s Senate seats.
The Atlanta Press Club said Perdue, who is seeking a second term, will be “represented by an empty podium” at the Dec. 6 debate. Perdue’s decision to skip the debate was first reported by The New Yorker on Sunday.
“The Atlanta Press Club’s Loudermilk-Young Debate Series is disappointed that Sen. David Perdue has decided to not participate in his debate,” the press club said in a statement.
The statement continued: “Jon Ossoff has confirmed his participation, so according to our rules, we will proceed with the debate and Sen. Perdue will be represented by an empty podium. That is not our preference.”
Perdue’s campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Runoff elections for Perdue and Ossoff, as well as for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Democrat Raphael Warnock, were scheduled for Jan. 5 after none of the candidates received at least 50% of the votes in their respective races this month.
The closely watched runoffs will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate. If Democrats succeed in flipping both seats, the Senate would likely be split 50-50. Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the power to cast a tiebreaker vote.
Perdue declined an invitation to debate Ossoff just ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3, after a clip of Ossoff accusing Perdue during a previous debate of leveraging inside information to profit off the coronavirus pandemic went viral. (Perdue’s campaign has said a federal investigation into the matter cleared the senator of any wrongdoing.)
“Looks like Sen. David Perdue is too much of a coward to debate me again,” Ossoff tweeted Sunday. “Perdue can’t defend his lies about COVID-19, self-dealing stock trades, his bigotry, or his votes to take away Georgians’ health care. Senator, come on out and try to defend your record. I’m ready to go.”
Ossoff has challenged Perdue to at least three debates ahead of the runoff.