Capitol Alert

First debate scheduled in Sacramento’s Bera-Ose congressional race

After months of political wrangling, Democratic Rep. Ami Bera and Republican Doug Ose will square off Oct. 8 in a debate at KVIE-TV studios, showcasing a race drawing national attention because of the suburban Sacramento County district’s close political divide.

Bera, D-Elk Grove, and Ose, a Sacramento businessman who previously served three terms in Congress, agreed to participate in the live event sponsored by The Sacramento Bee, Capital Public Radio and KVIE, along with the Center for California Studies at Sacramento State, Folsom Lake College and the Los Rios Community College District. The hourlong debate is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in front of a studio audience of about 100 people.

“This is such an important election for us locally, and with the national audience tuned in, there’s bound to be a lot of outside voices,” said Cheryl Dell, publisher and president of The Sacramento Bee. “We believe it is important for voters to hear directly from the candidates in a forum that allows them to compare and evaluate different perspectives.”

The announcement brings to a close months of back-and-forth between the campaigns.

Bera, who agreed to participate in a debate in June, said Wednesday that details on additional events are being worked out.

“I’m glad my opponent has agreed to a debate so that Sacramento County voters will have the opportunity to see where we stand on the important issues,” Bera said in a statement. “They will learn that this race presents a clear choice between two very different records. We’re fighting to rebuild an economy that is fair by asking Wall Street and CEOs to pay their fair share, protecting Medicare and Social Security, and defending women’s access to health care, while my opponent’s record in Congress stands in direct opposition to all of those values.”

In March, Ose called on Bera to debate the merits of the federal health care law known as Obamacare. On the night of the primary, he reiterated his challenge for a debate. And in recent weeks he sent a second letter and on his website prodded Bera to “come out of hiding and defend his record in a series of joint appearances.” On Thursday, Ose’s campaign issued a statement calling on the congressman to agree to four additional forums.

“Congressman Bera must have gotten his polling back. After more than two months of hiding from the voters of this district, it’s clear that he is worried about his numbers,” said Chasen Bullock, Ose’s campaign manager. “As Congressman Bera is well aware, more than one debate has been proposed and we look forward to finalizing the details of each of the ... opportunities.”

Bera secured the seat two years ago in a rematch with Republican Dan Lungren. The 7th Congressional District will again produce one of the most competitive and expensive races in the state, with the candidates and outside groups on both sides expected to book millions of dollars in TV ads.

The October debate will be simulcast on Capital Public Radio and streamed on its website. The panelists will include Marianne Russ, managing editor of Capital Public Radio, and Bee Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Smith.