Amid mounting criticism for not agreeing to debate his GOP rivals for Alabama’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2022, former Huntsville businessman and ex-prisoner of war Mike Durant is not addressing why he won’t participate.
A spokesman for Durant, who is leading in fundraising and had the lion’s share of support in the most recent independent poll taken in the race, declined to comment when asked about the attacks on the former Army helicopter pilot who was shot down over Somalia in 1993 and taken hostage before being rescued 11 days later.
Durant’s two main rivals in the Republican primary — Katie Britt and Rep. Mo Brooks — have called Durant out for not agreeing to debates to be run by the Alabama Republican Party and televised statewide.
“Mike Durant has the public policy chops of a snail,” Brooks said at a campaign town hall event last week in Huntsville. “I think Mike Durant would get clobbered in a debate if somebody asked him a hard question. He would be like a deer in the headlights.”
Britt knocked Durant for not being accessible to voters on the campaign trail.
“We have done Senate forum after Senate forum,” she said. “And I have to give it to Congressman Brooks. He’s been at every single one of them with me. The other candidate (Durant) came to one and then has not been to the last five.”
And Monday, Britt took to social media to question why Durant wasn’t up for debating:
In 2016, when she ran Sen. Richard Shelby’s campaign, Britt defended the now-retiring senator’s decision to rebuff rival Jonathan McConnell’s invitation to debate.
“Sen. Shelby’s record and positions on issues are well-known and out in the open for all Alabama voters to see,” Britt said in an email at the time. “He is proud of his conservative record and has been traveling around the state – like he always does – to meet with constituents, answer questions, and discuss issues with them.”
Britt campaign spokesman Sean Ross said Britt was speaking for the Shelby campaign, not herself, at the time of the 2016 statement, adding that there is a distinction between longtime incumbent Shelby and Durant, a political neophyte.
“Of course, there’s no comparison between questions surrounding an incumbent with a 45-year record in office and Mike Durant…,” Ross said. “No one knows what Mike Durant really believes, because he is hiding from debates, forums, the media, and questions from voters on the campaign trail. The list of things he is likely afraid to discuss is only getting longer by the day. And the only logical conclusion is that the character Mike Durant plays on TV doesn’t match the person he is in real life.”
On Tuesday, Quin Hillyer, a Mobile-based conservative commentator for the Washington Examiner, also tore Durant’s campaigning style:
“He is coming across as a political coward. (Not physical coward, obviously, but, seriously, the guy won’t debate and won’t take questions. What is he afraid of?),” Hilyer tweeted.
Hilyer was responding to a tweet by Jeff Poor, who hosts his eponymous talk radio show on FM Talk 1065 in Mobile and reported that Durant did not take questions while addressing the Downtown Huntsville Republican Women’s Club on Tuesday.
Jessica Taylor, a conservative activist, former Alabama congressional candidate and Durant surrogate, called Poor’s tweet “fake news.”
“I am disappointed that you would spread this lie without verifying,” she said. “None of the candidates took questions per the decision of the club.”