TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The race for Kansas' District 18 Senate seat has been a contentious one, filled with challenges and accusations. Thursday, former Shawnee County Sheriff Dick Barta (R) issued a statement to the media in response to negative campaign ads. He is challenging his opponent, incumbent State Sen. Laura Kelly (D), to a live debate Sunday before the election.
Barta's statement reads:
"In my 12 years as Shawnee County sheriff and during this campaign, I sought to conduct myself with honor and dignity. So far this week my opponent has portrayed me as a child abuser, a farm animal and someone with a terrible disease. I'm calling this what it is -- the worst smear campaign in Kansas. Kansans deserve better than this.
"My wife, Marcia, and I have talked to thousands of people across the district in public forums, at parades and door-to-door. These kind of nasty attacks are the reason people are so frustrated with the political process. I have focused my campaign on the issues, not on attacking another person. Even though she and I have appeared together at numerous forums, I challenge my opponent to a live television debate on Sunday night."
Sen. Kelly accepted Barta's challenge and issued the following statement in response:
"For 85 days, Dick Barta has refused to show up to numerous debates and candidate forums and has dodged reporters. He does not want voters to know that he supports a plan that will bankrupt our state within 5 years, the drastic cuts to education made by Governor Brownback, and he certainly doesn’t want voters to know that his campaign is backed by out-of-state special interests who are looking to him to do their bidding. And now, after so many Kansans have voted, and the election-day is drawing near, my opponent is finally coming out from the shadows to debate the issues. And I accept his invitation.
"I suggest we have a live debate, hosted and moderated by the media, and that we receive questions from real voters who make our state great—teachers, law enforcement officers, healthcare providers, senior citizens and veterans.
"The future of our schools and our economy are on the line. We face real issues with real consequences. My opponent and I differ greatly on what we stand for, and the voters deserve to know just how different we are."
Neither campaign has said which - if any - stations they have been in contact with to host the live debate.