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Knilans camp mum on debate details

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Jim Leute
October 2, 2012

— The manager for Rep. Joe Knilans' Assembly campaign said Monday that Knilans has another "campaign-related event" that forced him to withdraw from tonight's forum with Deb Kolste, the Democratic challenger for the 44th District seat.

The Janesville chapter of the League of Women Voters, Forward Janesville and JATV were sponsoring tonight's forum. The local league, however, learned late last week that Knilans was "overbooked" and unable to attend.

Campaign manager Tyler Wenzlaff on Monday returned a Gazette phone call to Knilans.

Given several opportunities, Wenzlaff refused to specifically identify the event that created the conflict.

When asked for the event's location, Wenzlaff said he was unsure and would have to check Knilans' schedule and get back to a reporter, which he didn't do Monday.

"I don't know why people are making such a big deal of this," Wenzlaff said. "Joe has four other head-to-heads with Deb."

Knilans, the Republican incumbent, agreed to participate in the forum Aug. 28, two weeks after Kolste defeated three others in the Democratic primary.

Wenzlaff said Monday he was unsure when Knilans' other event was scheduled. He said he just became aware of the conflict last week. He said he left a message about Knilans' scheduling conflict with the Dane County League of Women Voters because he couldn't find contact information for the local chapter.

Wenzlaff said Knilans would like to reschedule the forum with the league, Forward Janesville and JATV.

So, too, would Kolste.

"I am disappointed that Mr. Knilans canceled his appearance,'' Kolste said. "The forum is traditionally one of the most important events of the campaign season.''

With the unexpected opening in her calendar, Kolste scheduled a listening session for 7 p.m. today at Mocha Moment, 1121 Center Ave., Janesville.

"If I am elected, I intend to make myself available to the community at every opportunity,'' Kolste said. "I think inviting citizens to a listening session is a good place to start."

When asked specifically about the four joint appearances for Knilans and Kolste, Wenzlaff said one was last week on Local Vision TV, an online television network that produces local news features, sports, government, education and entertainment videos.

He said he wasn't certain about the details of the other three but would check and get back with the details, which also didn't happen Monday.

Kolste said Monday that the two candidates—along with several others—appeared at an agricultural forum in August. In addition to that and the Local Vision event, joint appearances are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Janesville Boys and Girls Club, 200 W. Court St., and for a live radio forum Oct. 29 on WCLO radio.

Kolste said the League of Women Voters event would have had the broadest audience and typically is one of the most significant joint appearances for candidates.

"They always step up," she said, noting that she participated in league forums as a candidate for the Janesville School Board and in her Assembly primary campaign.

Carol Tidwell, chairwoman of the league's voter services committee, said her group offered Knilans a time change for tonight's event as well as a date change.

As of Monday afternoon, Tidwell said, she had not heard from the Knilans campaign about rescheduling the forum.



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