BURNS - Organizers are holding out hope for a gubernatorial debate in Burns, but so far the schedule promises only separate appearances in the region by the two candidates.

Democratic candidate John Kitzhaber plans to be in Burns this Thursday, Sept. 9. The Eastern Oregon Rural Alliance is holding a special meeting at 10 a.m. at the Community Center, 484 N. Broadway, to discuss rural issues with him. The public is welcome to attend.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said EORA will hold the same kind of meeting with Republican candidate Chris Dudley, although the time and place have not yet been confirmed. Grasty said that meeting may not be held in Burns, but still will be in Eastern Oregon.

The goal of the two meetings is to present each candidate with information on the work that EORA has accomplished to date and "to demand that the two candidates find a mutually acceptable date for a debate," Grasty said.

The latter could be a tall order. The two campaigns have been at odds over debate schedules from the start, with the Kitzhaber camp pushing for debates early in the season and the Dudley group discussing later dates.

Last week, they agreed on one debate: a Sept. 30 event is sponsored by The Oregonian and KGW TV. The only other joint appearance confirmed by both sides is a League of Oregon Cities candidate forum set for Sept. 25 in Eugene. So far, Kitzhaber has proposed nine dates; Dudley has offered four. These include the Sept. 25 forum.

Early last month, EORA proposed a debate in Burns to focus attention on the issues in rural Oregon.

Grasty and Colleen MacLeod, co-chairs of the Alliance, said they feel that Eastern Oregon is poised to be an important part of the state's economic recovery. The debate was intended to raise awareness of that opportunity, both with the future governor - whoever wins - and the rest of the state.

Last week, they were still hoping to put a rural debate on the calendar.

Even if it's at the end of the campaign, "we still want to have the debate," Grasty said.

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