On Wednesday, April 23, three of the four Democratic U.S. Senate candidates met for a televised debate in one of Georgia's largest cities outside of Atlanta-- Columbus.
Steen Miles, Todd Robinson and Branko Radulovacki showed up, but Michele Nunn declined the invitation to sit on the same stage with fellow candidates to answer various questions.
Columbus is located approximately one hundred miles west of Macon and is Georgia's second largest city with a total population hoovering around 200,000.
Even though Democrats tend to do well in Muscogee County (Columbus), voter participation has been an issue in presidential and especially mid-term elections.
Barack Obama won Muscogee-Columbus by twenty-two points in November 2012 over Mitt Romney (60 percent to 38 percent), but only 58 percent of Muscogee-Columbus registered voters bothered to cast a ballot in the 2012 presidential election.
The state average in regard to voter participation for November 2012 was 72 percent.
Some of the topics from the debate included the following:
1. Affordable Care Act
2. Fort Benning
3. Voter confidence in newcomers
4. National Debt
5. Privacy vs. Security
7. Student loan crisis
Radulovacki said during the debate that he has been consistent in his support for the Affordable Care Act and believes he is most qualified to go to Washington because of his past experiences.
Dr. Rad has met with various people with different backgrounds along with organizations in an effort to form a coalition and to find common ground on various issues.
Miles, a former state legislator, is the only Democrat who had been previously elected to office and says she would defend the Affordable Care Act and be someone who can reach across the aisle and collaborate on other issues.
Robinson, an educator and a military veteran, told the Columbus audience that he will fight to keep Fort Benning and other Georgia military installations such as Robins Air Force Base and Moody in Valdosta open and reaffirmed his commitment to supporting education.
The Columbus Ledger- Enquirer wrote about the absence of Michelle Nunn and got responses from Miles, Radulovacki and Robinson.
During the debate, Miles said it was "egregious" that Nunn was not engaging the others in debate. After the debate, Miles was even more pointed in her criticism of Nunn's tactic.
"She has not attended the last seven or eight forums," Miles said. "I have never seen anything like it. She is running like it is a coronation. And that is unfair to the citizens of Georgia."
Nunn is running like an incumbent, which is a text book political move, said Columbus State University political science professor Nicholas Easton.
"This is a standard political practice," Easton said. "When you are considerably ahead, you don't debate because you have nothing to gain and everything to lose."
Nunn's decision is not without complications, including the potential of angering Columbus Democrats by not showing up, Easton said.
"By doing this, did she risk the opportunity of getting more exposure in the Columbus market?" he asked. "There is no doubt she is playing it by the book. And that is exactly what you say if you are in her position."
That still did not sit well with the other three candidates, especially Radulovacki, who has been called the "Waffle House candidate," because no crowd is too small for him.
"What she is practicing is conventional political wisdom if you are the perceived leader," Radulovacki said. "That does not allow the voters to see her and hear her. It is politics over people -- and politics over the process. But I understand why."
So does Robinson.
"She is depriving the voters a chance to touch her and ask her questions," he said. "Politics is personal, and she is taking the personal aspect out of it."