When you talk politics for a living, you long for a good debate. But 94.3 Knox Talk Radio host, Mike Howard, says its not always that easy to get two sides to face off.

"We've seen this even happen in this last little round of primaries," Howard said, "It usually ends up being an incumbent or someone who has been in the political arena for some time who decides they don't want to do it."

Howard says incumbents will interview alone but they rarely debate their opponent. He's seen it happen from the county commission to U.S. Senate level.

"The debate is not for them. The debate is for us and I think they should be there to fulfill those requests when requested," Howard said.

Most recently Congressman Jimmy Duncan declined to take part in a tea party group debate where Howard would act as moderator.

Duncan was first elected in 1988. A spokesperson for his campaign could not tell us the last time he took part in a debate. In WBIR archives, a race as far back as 1996 showed he did not debate.

His newest challenger, Jason Zachary, doesn't understand why.

"These debates go on across the country every two years in districts across the country but its foreign in the second district because Congressman Duncan has refused to participate and people have refused to hold him accountable for his inactivity and lack of engagement," said Zachary.

Congressman Duncan's spokesperson, Patrick Newton, said he doesn't have to participate because his constituents know his stance on policies.

"Congressman Duncan has given thousands of speeches, hundreds of interviews, sent out millions of newsletters and met personally with many thousands of his constituents. His views are very well known. There certainly is no need for him to help get any opponent's views known just because they haven't worked nearly as long and as hard as Congressman Duncan."

Howard said when incumbents don't participate it hurts the voters.

"It really behooves us as voters to sit down and have these formal debates in these areas where we can sit and talk to these candidates and say here I have some questions and I want to see how you answer them and I want to see how you answer them and I want to make my decision then," said Howard.

Senator Lamar Alexander and Congressman Chuck Fleischmann both said they haven't been challenged to a debate this primary season.

Political Science expert at Maryville College Dr. Mark O'Gorman said it is very common for incumbents to refuse debates. He said it gives their opponent unwanted name recognition.

Read or Share this story: http://on.wbir.com/1ng3A2Y