Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is defending her seat against three challengers in the Mississippi Senate special election, will not participate in two upcoming debates, according to the Jackson Free Press.
Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the seat by Gov. Phil Bryant, said through her campaign that her schedule on Capitol Hill will prevent her from being able to attend the debates, which the other three candidates have agreed to participate in.
"She has got to be in D.C. from Monday through Thursday, so she can't debate during that time," Melissa Scallan, communications director for the Hyde-Smith campaign, said. "She has said she would not skip a vote in order to campaign. So those two dates would not work for us."
The debates are scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 4, and Tuesday, Oct. 23.
McDaniel criticizes Hyde-Smith's absence
The other Republican running in the special election, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, had already attacked the Trump-endorsed Hyde-Smith for not making time to discuss the issues important to Mississippi citizens leading up to the vote.
"I can't imagine why someone running to represent our state in the U.S. Senate—which used to be known as 'the world's greatest deliberative body'—would avoid discussing the issues facing Mississippi, but sadly we've seen it before," McDaniel said in a Sept. 5 press release, when Hyde-Smith's campaign was noncommittal about the debates.
McDaniel also pointed to a recent video showing Hyde-Smith addressing questions from a constituent about key issues as a reason for Hyde-Smith skipping the debates.
"This recently released video shows exactly why Cindy won't debate -- it's because she can't answer these questions," McDaniel said in a press release.
McDaniel's press secretary, Tanner Watson, told the Free Press that McDaniel would agree to a weekend debate if that fit Hyde-Smith's schedule better, but Hyde-Smith's campaign still wouldn't commit even in that hypothetical scenario.
"We would definitely look at it," Scallan said. "We might be able to do it, but she is pretty booked up. It's hard to speculate."
Instead, McDaniel will debate Democratic challengers Mike Espy, former agriculture secretary under Bill Clinton, and longshot challenger Tobey Bartee.
The special election will take place Nov. 6. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the race will proceed to a runoff on Nov. 27 between the top two vote-getters.