GREENVILLE, SC (September 7, 2016) - Debate negotiations between Republican Trey Gowdy and his Democratic opponent Chris Fedalei ended abruptly over the holiday weekend. After a month of signaling readiness to defend his record, Congressman Gowdy’s representatives demanded that Senator Tim Scott be allowed to share the stage. When it became clear that any event would include a one-on-one segment, Congressman Gowdy promptly refused to participate. The Fedalei campaign released the following statement Wednesday morning:
“Trey Gowdy first tried to use his friend, Senator Scott, to shield himself from real questions. He then flat-out cancelled the single campaign event he’s even begun to consider at home in years when presented with the prospect of having to confront his challenger man to man.
Congressman Gowdy spends his time talking about accountability for our leaders in Washington - if he were serious about that claim, he’d have a record that he could feel comfortable coming home to defend. Instead, he’s become one of the ineffective Washington insiders that he’s built his brand railing against, spending his time on partisan charades instead of acting on solutions for the people of his district.
During his six debates with Bob Inglis in 2010, Trey Gowdy had a tag-line he repeated often: "Unless voters elect new leadership, they can expect the same result.”
Six years and millions of taxpayer dollars later, we know the kind of Congressman we have - one who won’t protect South Carolinians from Zika, who won’t compromise on criminal justice reform, and who continues to support a profoundly unqualified nominee for President. With his absent leadership at the helm, we’re stuck with a result that does nothing for South Carolina.
Apparently, the one person he refuses to hold accountable is himself.”
Full Timeline of Negotiations
On August 9th, Dr. Danielle Vinson of Furman University’s Political Science department invited both Congressman Gowdy and Mr. Fedalei to a debate hosted by the University. Mr. Fedalei’s campaign announced that he had accepted the invitation the next day, saying “I believe voters will clearly benefit from a frank and fair discussion of the many serious issues facing the Upstate.”
By August 18th, both campaigns had engaged in extensive conversations with Dr. Vinson regarding the format for the event. The Fedalei campaign agreed to Dr. Vinson’s preferred style of event, with the candidates seated and a focus on each candidate’s qualifications as well as the issues regarding the community.
That same day, the Gowdy campaign made it clear they would not participate if invitations were not also extended to the statewide candidates for Senate: Senator Tim Scott and his challenger Thomas Dixon. He asked that the candidates participate in the event and that the entirety of the event occur with all four candidates on stage together. His campaign specifically pushed for a structure that would avoid a one-on-one debate with Mr. Fedalei.
By August 22nd, the Fedalei campaign acknowledged to Dr. Vinson that it supported the extension of invitations to the candidates for Senate, with the strong preference that there be some extended period of time where just the candidates for each seat were able to discuss their race together.
On August 24th, Dr. Vinson presented a compromise to both campaigns: 40 minutes for first the Congressional race, followed by 40 minutes for the Senate race, with 20 minutes to conclude the evening that featured all 4 candidates and focused on the intersecting issues. By the time that this format was offered to the Fedalei campaign for consideration, it had been approved in principal by the Gowdy campaign.
The Fedalei campaign accepted these terms on August 29th. Invitations were presented to all four candidates on August 30th; the invitation to Senator Scott was conveyed through Congressman Gowdy’s office. The Fedalei campaign accepted a formal invitation via email the same day.
On September 2nd, Congressman Gowdy’s office informed Dr. Vinson that they would not be participating if the event did not consist of all four candidates on stage together for its duration. Shortly after, Dr. Vinson informed the Fedalei campaign that an agreement on format could not be reached and that the event would not go on as planned.