Tim Schock admits that he couldn’t commit to the initial dates proposed by the Tampa Tiger Bay Club and the League of Women voters regarding a proposed debate with his Hillsborough County Commission District 6 opponent, Pat Kemp. Now Kemp says she’s too busy to debate Schock before the Nov. 8 election, and Schock isn’t happy about that.
“She won’t talk about the issues,” Schock complained early Monday evening. “What’s more important than debating the issues? To turn down the press and other community affairs forums shows a tremendous lack of respect for the voters.”
Shock says he knows of at least three different groups who have proposed hosting a debate between the candidates vying for the countywide seat next month. He says WFLA-TV offered to stream a forum online while two different producers for WMNF radio (including this reporter) proposed hosting forums between the candidates.
Shock is a 43-year-old South Tampa transportation and tech consultant who is running for a countywide office for the second in time. He lost in a Republican primary in District 7 to Al Higginbotham in 2014. Higginbotham went on to defeat Kemp in the general election that year.
Kemp says Schock has had plenty of chances to debate her.
“Tim has had several opportunities for debate and he has been a no-show,” she texted to this reporter on Tuesday afternoon. “He failed to show at last Friday’s debate at Tiger Bay. He has repeatedly declined offers by the League of Women Voters to schedule a debate while I repeatedly accepted the offers. Both of these groups have debates that are open to the public analog for questions from the audience.”
Sandra Sroka, president of the Hillsborough County League of Women Voters, said that the League had made tentative plans to host a forum between Kemp and Schock, but that Schock said he had a conflict on the initial date they proposed. She said they would see if they could change the date, but she says that after not hearing back from Schock, they had to make a decision, and because of a variety of other factors (including scheduling the event in advance of early voting), they ultimately had to cancel the program.
Vic DiMaio with the Tampa Tiger Bay Club says that Schock also had a conflict on the date that they had scheduled, and that they couldn’t reschedule.
Shock hinted that Kemp was refraining from debating now because she prefers speaking from a script, a script he contends has been “developed for her by her team of supporters.”
“When she starts quoting numbers, they don’t add up,” Schock contends. “When you ask her where she gets her numbers, she says ‘I did the math myself,'” he says.
There have been several races in Hillsborough County this election cycle where the voters will not be able to see candidates square off with each other in a debate format. In the House District 60 race, Jackie Toledo hasn’t engaged with Democrat David Singer in any forums. And now it appears that Dana Young won’t be debating her Senate District 18 opponents at a Tiger Bay forum scheduled for this Friday, likely the only time those candidates would all appear at the same event.