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Zopp to Duckworth: Debate me on the South Side

Come debate me on my turf. It’s the message Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrea Zopp had Sunday for U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, whom she will face in the March 15 primary.

The winner is expected to face incumbent Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in November.

For Zopp, who lives in the Morgan Park neighborhood on the South Side, the “face me” taunts are nothing new.

She has repeatedly said that Duckworth, from northwest suburban Hoffman Estates, has refused to accept debate offers.

On Sunday, Zopp, former president of the Chicago Urban League, pointed to debate offers from the Urban League and media companies such as the Chicago Defender newspaper and radio station WVON.

Zopp reiterated her grievance at a news conference at her campaign headquarters in Bronzeville β€” two days after the race’s only traditional debate, which also included state Sen. Napoleon Harris, was televised Friday evening by WLS-Channel 7.

Zopp wants a debate on the South Side as part of her strategy. Her camp has acknowleged that her only path to the nomination is from a massive outpouring of votes from African-Americans.

“I challenge Congresswoman Duckworth to come stand up,” Zopp said. “She needs to come to this community and tell us what she’s done and what she’s going to do on the issues that matter to this community.

“If you look at her record, particularly on the issues that matter to working families, and specifically to the issues that matter to the African-American communities β€” job creation, criminal justice reform, gun control β€” Congresswoman Duckworth has been basically silent on those issues in her time in Congress,” Zopp said.

Duckworth campaign spokesman Matt McGrath disagrees with Zopp’s math. He categorizes two candidate meetings before newspaper editorial boards as debates.

McGrath responded to Zopp’s comments in an emailed statement: “We were pleased with the opportunity to participate in three substantive debates, and are looking forward to spending the final three weeks of the campaign traveling around the state and talking directly with Illinois voters.

“It’s also worth noting that each debate drew extensive coverage, was streamed live, and continues to exist online. If Ms. Zopp failed to make her points to her own satisfaction over the course of three well-covered debates, she has no one to blame but herself,” the statement said.