That isn't true, said Nunnelee campaign manager Morgan Baldwin in response to a Tea Party newspaper ad. Baldwin said Nunnelee, a Tupelo Republican, has a tight schedule that doesn't allow for a debate or a forum.
The first-term congressman will be working in Washington throughout the primary campaign, with the exception of the week of Feb. 20. And that week, Baldwin said, already is booked with other engagements.
The ad ran in the Lee County Courier last week and in the Daily Journal today.
"I don't think anybody can make the case that Congressman Nunnelee has not been one of the most accessible congressmen," Baldwin said. "He's held 22 town hall meetings in one year. When he's in the district, he's out meeting with constituents."
But Tupelo Tea Party spokesman Grant Sowell said debates often provide voters their only chance to see candidates side by side and compare their positions. If Nunnelee's schedule is busy, he should make time, Sowell said.
"It's evident to me that the campaign strategy is to stay away from the Tea Party and stay away from debates," Sowell said. "I thought it'd be kind of political suicide not to hear the people of the 1st District when they say they want a debate."
The ad also questions Nunnelee's promises of fiscal and social conservatism and hints he's afraid to face voters on those points. Baldwin said Nunnelee's record speaks for itself and that he has kept his word to be a conservative voice in Washington.
Running against Nunnelee in the March 13 Republican primary are attorney and former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross and Southaven Tea Party activist Robert Estes.
Democrat Brad Morris and Libertarian Danny Bedwell will be on until the November general election ballot.