Rosendale backs out of debate with Tester

Republican Matt Rosendale has backed out of the first debate against Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, saying he has other plans for Father’s Day.

Sunday’s debate in Whitefish was to be sponsored by the Montana Broadcasters’ Association, and aired on KCAP. It was also to be broadcast on statewide TV.

Rosendale spokesman Shane Scanlon says the debate was scheduled and organized without any input or agreement from the Rosendale campaign. But just last week, in a phone interview with NBC Montana, Rosendale said, “You’ll see me in Whitefish.”

Ron Davis, the chairman of the debate committee, said Rosendale made a verbal agreement to be there, but the campaign maintains it had never agreed in writing.

Davis said that as early as a week ago, Rosendale had told him and others from the broadcasters association he would be at the debate.

The Tester campaign accused Rosendale of bailing out at the last minute and ducking voters.

Tester still plans to go to Whitefish, where he will address the broadcasters’ association at its annual meeting. The group hasn’t decided yet on a format.