Ed Martin has been debating Rep. Russ Carnahan–without bothering to inform Carnahan that they are debating each other. Naturally, when Carnahan doesn’t show up (to a debate he was never invited to), Ed Martin can roll his eyes and bemoan to the audience his opponent’s repeated irresponsible behavior.

When I called Carnahan’s office to verify that his campaign had not agreed to these debates, Angela Barranco, his campaign manager, laughed and said “Those debates were 100 percent never agreed to.” In fact, Barranaco says the first anyone at Carnahan’s office knew about them came when a reporter called a few weeks back, saying something to the effect of “Um, y’all didn’t agree to a … series of debates or anything, did you? Because Martin’s campaign has issued a press release about several of them.” The reason the reporter was so skeptical was that the press release mentioned that Martin Duggan, a well known local conservative, was listed as the moderator. And the reporter was pretty sure that unless the Carnahan staff was suffering from collective dementia, they would never have agreed to Duggan as moderator. It was maybe not quite as fishy as pretending that Glenn Beck had been chosen to moderate a debate between President Obama and Sarah Palin, but you get the idea.

The other red flag dead giveaway for the reporter was that the press release called the “debate” on health care: Obamacare. Again, this had to be group dementia at Carnahan HQ or a flagrant scam.

Some folk I know, not of a conservative persuasion, attended last night’s debate, hoping to ask Martin about his position on Medicare. But he was (almost) too slick for them. After shaking his head sorrowfully about Carnahan’s failure to appear, he had his Communications Director pass out index cards for people to write questions on. You probably think he cherry picked the questions he would answer. Not so. He didn’t answer any of them. In fact, no one picked them up from the crowd–though one lady we’ll call Cathy did manage to get her card up to the Communications Director. So half an hour before the event was to end, the CD said it was time for the final question (as if any had been asked at all) and then said, “Oh, it only says ‘I have a question.'” At that point Cathy jumped up and said, “That’s my question.”

The CD tried to interrupt her, but Cathy soldiered on, explaining that she was a single mom without insurance. An acquaintance of mine who was there tells me that Martin appeared visibly ticked and said that maybe she ought to have her own town hall. Then he apparently thought better of snarky behavior and engaged her in conversation.

We’ll have video in the next day or so, and I hope that exchange will be plain for all to see.