South Carolina Senate debate replaced with interviews after Lindsey Graham ‘refuses Covid-19 test'
Lindsey Graham will take part in the US Senate debate in South Carolina with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison on October 3, 2020. (AP)
Debate officers have changed the format of a debate between Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison to instead consist of separate candidate interviews.
The change was reportedly initiated by officials after Mr Harrison declined to attend, unless the incumbent Republican took a coronavirus test, which he reportedly declined.
Both candidates will take part in separate 30-minute interviews on the TV broadcaster WSPA on Friday.
In the hours leading up to the event, Mr Harrison urged the debate moderators and Senator Graham to conduct Covid-19 tests.
Senator Graham suggested that Mr. Harrison seek "special treatment" to get out of the debate and said he would "follow the orders of my doctors, not my political opponent".
"I took the coronavirus threat to our nation and our state seriously," he said in a statement Thursday. "I acted responsibly, looked for tests when necessary, and followed the advice of doctors."
The Senator, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the confirmation hearings for Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett will continue in the coming days after the president's announcement in the White House Rose Garden that at least a dozen would be Participants in attendance tested positive for the disease - including the president.
On Friday, the Senator suggested that Mr. Harrison "skip today's debate" while relying on a political stunt to avoid questions about his platform.
“South Carolinians do not appreciate Harrison putting himself above others,” he said on Twitter. "If Mr. Harrison is unable to interact with South Carolinians on the same terms as they live their lives in, he shouldn't be their senator."
“No luck, Lindsey. I'll be there, ”replied Mr. Harrison. "Thank you to our hosts for taking into account Senator Graham's refusal to take a Covid test and changing the format of the debate to ensure everyone's safety."
The back and forth has underscored the outrage directed against Republican officials for neglecting a public health crisis that has infected millions of Americans while the president downplayed the severity of the disease and the White House itself has refused to provide public details about his testing and contact tracing in place to track people close to him.
Mr Harrison said he would "not allow politics to unnecessarily jeopardize my family, campaign staff, Senator Graham staff and media members" by promoting a debate that could expose participants to the virus - a week after the President was hospitalized alongside Joe Biden days after his appearance in the debate phase.
During the Vice Presidential debate on Wednesday night, Mike Pence and Kamala Harris sat 12 feet apart and were guarded by Plexiglas partitions.
Mr. Harrison brought his own plexiglass sign to his debate with the Senator on October 3rd.
Recent polls show that the candidates are statistically bound. Recent polls show that Mr. Harrison has a slight head start in a Republican stronghold.
Senator Graham is seeking a fourth term; Mr. Harrison is the first black chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
A poll by Quinnipiac University in late September shows that each candidate receives 48 percent of the vote.
The impartial Cook Political Report regards the race as a "throw".
Senator Graham emerged as an early opponent of Mr. Trump's 2016 campaign but became a steady source of support in the GOP-controlled Senate.
When the Senator joined Republicans in 2016 efforts to block then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court candidate, he vowed that he would not do the same if a Supreme Court position became vacant under a Republican administration.
"I want you to use my words against me," he said at the time. "If there's a Republican president in 2016 and there's a vacancy in the final year of your first term, you can say," said Lindsey Graham, letting the next president, whoever it be, make that nomination. ""
However, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg within a few weeks leading up to election day, he has joined the Republicans to promote the presidential candidate.
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