U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, at least, is willing to debate his opponents.
Two other incumbent S.C. Republicans — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Nikki Haley — have declined to debate on Educational Television.
Scott, who polls say will become the first African-American elected statewide in South Carolina since Reconstruction, will appear in his first statewide televised debate on Oct. 28 on ETV.
Scott, a Charleston Republican, will debate Democrat Joyce Dickerson, a Richland County councilwoman, and American Party nominee Jill Bossi of Tega Cay, a former Red Cross executive.
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Scott, who was 1st District congressman when Haley appointed him to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, is favored heavily to win the special election to fill the final two years of DeMint’s six-year term. A Winthrop Poll, released this week, put Scott’s support at 52.4 percent, far outpacing Democrat Dickerson at 31.8 percent.
Scott’s Republican U.S. Senate counterpart from South Carolina, Graham, of Seneca, declined an invitation to debate his opponents — Democrat Brad Hutto and petition candidate Thomas Ravenel of Charleston — on ETV.
However, Hutto and Ravenel, star of Bravo’s “Southern Charm” reality series, will debate without Graham, who is seeking re-election to a third term, for a half-hour on Oct. 13.
Also, Haley declined Friday an invitation to an Oct. 20 ETV debate.
However, two other candidates for S.C. governor — petition candidate Tom Ervin of Greenville, a former lawmaker and judge, and Democrat Vincent Sheheen, a state senator from Camden — still could debate on ETV.
Ervin has accepted the debate invitation. Sheheen did too initially but was reconsidering after Haley said she would not attend, citing timing issues.
“(D)ue to the limited number of days left before the election and the governor's desire to meet in person, face to face with as many voters as possible, she is unable to participate in the event proposed by ETV,” Haley’s deputy campaign manager Rob Godfrey said in an email Friday.
Haley and Sheheen will debate Oct. 14 and 21 in debates sponsored by three TV stations and a newspaper.
The ETV debate series is being co-sponsored by a half-dozen S.C. newspapers, including The State.
“ETV is proud to continue its partnership with South Carolina papers and offer voters the opportunity to hear candidates discuss the issues in these statewide broadcasts," said ETV president Linda O’Bryon.
The first debate will be held Tuesday, when two candidates for state superintendent of education — Republican Molly Spearman of Saluda and Democrat Tom Thompson of Forest Acres — will debate from 7 to 8 p.m.
The two candidates for lieutenant governor — Republican Henry McMaster, a former S.C. attorney general, and Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers of Bamberg — will debate on Oct. 16.
The debates will be moderated by Charles Bierbauer, dean of the University of South Carolina’s journalism school. Bierbauer will be joined by a journalist in questioning the candidates.
The other newspapers co-sponsoring the ETV debates with The State are: The Beaufort Gazette, The Island Packet of Hilton Head, The Herald of Rock Hill, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, all — like The State — owned by the McClatchy Co.; The News of Greenville; The Item of Sumter; and The Morning News of Florence.
The debates also will be live-streamed and archived on the websites of the sponsoring newspapers.