Tom Rice takes exception to people saying he’s trying to duck out on debates with Andre Bauer, his opponent in Tuesday’s runoff for the 7th District Republican nomination.
In fact, Rice said Friday afternoon, “If anyone’s trying to duck out, it’s Andre.”
Rice said that Bauer has missed two scheduled debates during the course of the primary, while he has not missed a single one until the South Strand Republican Club debate scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Bonefish Grill on U.S. 17 Bypass South.
Rice said that he completed his 14th or 15th debate earlier Friday with another scheduled for Friday night. There have been three since the June 12 vote, all televised, Rice said.
He was upset with reports earlier Friday where one South Strand club member criticized Rice for not going to the Saturday debate. The club had planned a Lincoln-Douglas style debate where the two candidates would ask questions of each other. Rice said Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace, one of the seven Republicans in the 7th District race who didn’t make it to the runoff, would represent him Saturday.
Jon Bonsignor, a South Strand club member, said Rice’s absence at Saturday’s event was a missed opportunity for Rice to challenge Bauer face-to-face about statements Rice characterizes as “half-truths.”
“Not being there, he leaves all these questions up in the air,” Bonsignor said.
Rice also took exception at characterizing a Monday meeting of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club as a debate. He said it was a meeting to which he and Bauer had been invited.
Waccamaw club president Jerry Rovner said the club didn’t know if the two candidates could attend when they sent out the invitations. Rice called to say he had a previous commitment in Florence, Rovner said.
Rice is headed to Florence again Saturday where he has an 11:30 a.m. lunch appointment and an ice cream social later in the afternoon, he said.
He said he had already been in two appearances at campaign events sponsored by the South Strand club. He said the club did not contact him before setting Saturday as the date for the debate with Bauer.
He acknowledged Friday afternoon talking with South Strand club president Chuck Otwell about the event.
Bonsignor said Rice told Otwell he would pencil the date on his calendar.
Rice said he told Otwell he didn’t think he would be able to make it.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.