Sestak Won't Attend Chamber Debate Monday


Next Monday's Chamber of Business & Industry TV debate for Senate candidates will be missing Democrat Joe Sestak, who is headed instead to a Pittsburgh fundraiser hosted by Sen. John Kerry (D.,Mass.) and Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Republican Pat Toomey will do a question-and-answer session alone with former Nightline anchor Ted Koppel in Hershey, Pa. (Koppel also will moderate a debate between the candidates for governor.)

The two campaigns have been discussing debate arrangements, but have not yet come to an agreement on a schedule. There are likely to be two debates before Nov. 2, according to two people familiar with the talks. Toomey and Sestak debated twice while Sestak was locked in a Democratic primary fight with Sen. Arlen Specter (D.,Pa.)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads attacking Sestak as a tax-and-spend liberal. As the candidate trailing in the polls Sestsak has all the natural incentives to meet Toomey early and often.

"Joe is eager to debate," an adviser said, but he had a longstanding commitment to the Kerry event.