CMU to host Republican U.S. Senate debate on Jan. 14

Five Republican candidates for Michigan Senate are confirmed for a scheduled debate this month at Central Michigan University.

CMU will host the debate, sponsored by Michigan for a Conservative Senate and CMU Campus Conservatives, at 1 p.m. on Jan. 14 at the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium. According to the Mi4CS website, five candidates are confirmed for the debate: Scotty Boman, libertarian activist and physics and astronomy instructor; Clark Durant, former Hillsdale College vice president; Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association; Randy Hekman, former prosecutor and juvenile court judge; and Chuck Marino, founder of National Building Inspections.

Cindy Gamrat, a Tea Party organizer for Michigan for a Conservative Senate, said Peter Konechty, a small business owner from Roscommon, has declined an invitation to attend. Former U.S. Representative and gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra and Rick Wilson, a former manager in the auto industry from Grand Blanc, have not responded. Gamrat said it is unknown whether the two will take part, but her "gut says no."

"But there's still (more than) a week left," she said. "It's our goal of the citizens to vet these candidates and get to know them to make an educated decision. We hope they're still going to jump in."

The debate, scheduled to last about two hours, will follow a typical format, Gamrat said, with a panel of moderators asking questions. Each candidate will have the same amount of time and an opportunity for rebuttals. Gamrat recently moved to Plainwell, Mich., from Indiana, where she helped organize three debates in 2009 for local elections.

"We're excited for this opportunity," she said. "We have some really great candidates in this election for U.S. Senate, and this is an opportunity to get to know them."

Voters will go to the polls on Aug. 7 to elect a Republican candidate to campaign against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a democrat, for the general election in November.