(This post has been updated to clarify Hoekstra's campaign responded to requests for information; adds information.)
A West Michigan tea party group is hosting a major Republican forum this week. All but one candidate running to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate are expected to appear at a debate in West Michigan this week. The nominee will face incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow in the general election in November.
Even the presumed front runner, former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, will take part. Hoekstra turned down a tea party debate in Mt. Pleasant earlier this month reportedly because there was a straw poll taken. However, Hoekstra's campaign denies this is the case, saying he did not participate because organizers of the forum would not say exactly what groups were involved in the event. An official also says Hoekstra will not "actively participate" in straw polls. Hoekstra lost a straw poll to conservative Gary Glenn in September. At the event in Zeeland Tuesday there will be no straw poll taken.
Jim Chiodo is President of the Ottawa County Patriots. The group is hosting the forum near Hoekstra’s hometown of Holland. Chiodo says it was a challenge to get all of the candidates to agree on the date and the format.
“I’ve got a lot more grey hair,” Chiodo jokes. “I mean trying to coordinate with these guys…now again I say ‘these guys’; they’re busy! They’ve got campaigns they’re running. They’re here. They’re there. I’ve had to discuss format with some people before they’ll give me an answer.”
Chiodo says attorney Clark Durant will not attend. Chiodo admits that’s mostly his fault for not getting back to Durant promptly.
Chiodo also invited Senator Stabenow. But he says her campaign said she would not participate in debates until the Republican nominee is chosen.
The candidates will be asked to talk about energy issues, national security, and individuals’ civil rights. The audience will get a chance to ask questions too. The forum is free and open to the public.