(KGTV) — Is Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom avoiding the debate stage? That's the accusation from Republican rival John Cox who says Newsom has agreed to only one debate thus far, despite several opportunities being offered.
Newsom tells 10News he has already been part of four debates with Cox but critics point out that was during the primary campaign with other candidates sharing the stage.
Newsom tells 10News he prefers meeting with people at town halls where there's more time for interaction with the audience and less grandstanding.
"Candidly, the last three out of four of our debates, looked like Jerry Springer shows than substantive dialogue," said Newsom.
But political analyst Kevin Riggs says its no surprise Newsom is shying away from debates at this point in the race.
"He's ahead in the polls, he's ahead in the fundraising, at this point his campaign is an exercise in risk management," said Riggs. "His campaign is going to look at this invitation and say, 'What's in it for us?' and the answer is, not much."
Riggs says every time Newsom puts himself side by side with Cox, he raises his opponent's profile and gives him a chance to gain ground.
"Cox needs the exposure," said Riggs, "He needs to be on the same stage with Gavin Newsom."
Which is why, says Riggs, the Cox campaign has agreed to multiple debate offers, while Newsom has so far declined or not responded to all but the one offer from CNN.
So what can Cox do about it?
Riggs says, "If you're John Cox you try and shame your opponent and try and talk about the fact you are ignoring voters, you're snubbing voters."
The Cox campaign did release a statement this week, accusing Newsom of just that, saying he doesn't want to talk about the issues Californians care about.
The two are set to meet for the first — perhaps only — one-on-one debate Oct. 1 on CNN.