Embattled Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) doesn't seem to like being around voters in his own district.
Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH) still refuses to publicly debate his Democratic opponent, Danny O'Connor, despite multiple invitations from local press organizations.
And Balderson is actually showing "contempt" for his voters by spurning public discourse in this way, O'Connor told the Columbus Dispatch.
The difference between the two candidates was striking when they appeared together at a recent forum, where each was able to speak for three short minutes.
Balderson spent his time blandly reading prepared remarks before an audience, then quickly left without speaking to residents and voters who were present.
O'Connor, on the other hand, spoke without notes and was eager to engage with the audience after the event.
"The contempt for voters ... that [Balderson] demonstrates needs to change on Nov. 6," O’Connor told the Dispatch after the forum.
The two men are locked in a tight race in the suburbs of Columbus following an August special election where Balderson narrowly defeated O'Connor.
O'Connor thinks the residents of his district deserve to hear from both men who seek to represent them in Congress.
"A three-minute stump speech without the chance to have a rebuttal or have follow-ups or have any further conversation is problematic," O'Connor told the Dispatch after the forum.
"I think if we’re going to have this dialogue about the future of our country, and our democracy, it needs to be robust, it needs to be a conversation that’s moderated," O'Connor continued. He noted that a debate "needs to be about the issues that are keeping families up at night every single day."
A contemptuous Balderson still flatly refuses.
"Balderson, who has turned down numerous requests (including one from The Dispatch and WOSU) to debate O’Connor, insisted that voters in the highly competitive race have seen them together enough times to make up their minds," the Dispatch reports.
Balderson's hiding routine may be having an impact on the race. In recent weeks, numerous election experts changed their rating of the race from favoring Balderson to calling it a toss-up.
While it's an imperfect measure of voter enthusiasm, O'Connor has massively outraised Balderson in the wake of their special election. And while Balderson relied on millions of dollars of Republican dark money assistance during the special election, the Dispatch notes that outside groups have largely snubbed Balderson during the rematch.
O'Connor has twice received the endorsement of the conservative-leaning Dispatch editorial board. The Dispatch has praised O'Connor as the better choice, and criticized Balderson's unquestioning loyalty to Trump.
Unfortunately, due to Balderson's intransigence, residents will not be afforded the opportunity to hear the two men debate the issues before the Nov. 6 election.
But Balderson's silence still speaks volumes.