After agreeing to only two televised U.S. Senate debates against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio, Democrat Patrick Murphy says he’s open to at least one more: a Univision-sponsored debate in Miami.
Murphy’s campaign — which has escalated its Hispanic outreach since late September — announced Wednesday morning that the Jupiter congressman had accepted a weeks-old invitation from Univision for a “Spanish-language debate.”
But Murphy — who isn’t fluent in the language — doesn’t want the debate to actually be in Spanish.
The campaign said Murphy “has requested that the debate be conducted in English and then dubbed in Spanish, like the 2014 [gubernatorial] debate between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, in order to ensure a fair playing field for both candidates.”
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Rubio, who is Cuban-American, is fluent in Spanish and would be likely to speak in that language before a Hispanic viewing audience, as he has in previous debates.
Murphy tried to pressure Rubio on the Univision event by saying details of the debate would be announced “if and when Senator Rubio accepts.” However, Rubio agreed to this event more than a month ago. It was among his original list of six accepted invitations that the Rubio campaign sent out Sept. 12.
A spokesman for Univision did not immediately return a request for comment.
Just because both candidates have committed doesn’t make the debate a guarantee. Rubio and Murphy still have to agree on a date and time, and potentially also format.
“Patrick will show up and fight for Florida’s Hispanic families every day in the U.S. Senate and that difference will be on full display at the Univision debate,” Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf said in a statement. “Marco Rubio abandoned Florida’s Hispanic communities, ran away from his own plan for immigration reform and continues to support Donald Trump for president.”
Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas quipped in response: “27 days from the election, Patrick Murphy’s campaign is finally discovering that Florida has a Hispanic community.”
“We’re glad Murphy is finally accepting this debate we agreed to a month ago, so that Marco can contrast his long record of accomplishments on behalf of all Floridians with Murphy’s record of ineffectiveness and dishonesty,” she said in a statement.
Murphy previously had his own list of events he’d agree to — announced the same day as Rubio’s — which included three debates and a candidate forum. But the candidates mutually agreed to only two events: a debate on Oct. 17 in Orlando and another in Davie on Oct. 26.
Murphy’s list had included a debate where one of the sponsors was Spanish-language network Telemundo, but Rubio did not agree to that venue over concerns that another of its sponsors — the Florida League of Women Voters — would be biased in Murphy’s favor.
Because Rubio wouldn’t agree to that, Murphy’s campaign said it accepted the Univision debate “to ensure Spanish-language voters can fully participate.”
Rubio has been pushing for six debates since the day after the Aug. 30 primary, including one sponsored by a Spanish-language media outlet.
Murphy was reluctant to accept Rubio’s challenge, adding the caveat that he would agree if Rubio committed to serving a full-six year term if re-elected — something Rubio hasn’t directly done.
Meanwhile, Murphy’s campaign held steadfast to its list, offering little wiggle room beyond the two mutally agreed debates and even narrowing the possibilities. Murphy’s campaign quietly started rejecting at least some other debate invitations, such as one offered by the Miami Herald and news partner CBS4 Miami and another proposed by the Tampa Bay Times.
Murphy has aggressively ramped up his outreach to Florida’s Hispanic voters in the past three weeks. Since hiring Miami strategist Freddy Balsera, the campaign has launched Spanish-language ads — including one this week where Murphy himself spoke in Spanish. It also started issuing press releases in both English and Spanish and has hammered Rubio on issues like immigration and Rubio’s continued allegiance to Trump.