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Wheeler challenges Hales to 12 debates, mayor says let's discuss schedule

The Portland mayor's race is heating up with challenger Ted Wheeler challenging incumbent Charlie Hales to 12 debates on subjects ranging from homelessness to eastside services and education.

Hales responded by saying campaign staffers should discuss scheduling debates, but he did not commit to Wheeler's specific challenge.

Wheeler issued the challenge in a Tuesday letter to Hales that said the race had already became a game of political tit for tat.

"When I announced by candidacy for mayor, I noted the city had a homelessness crisis; last week, you declared it an emergency. Two weeks ago, I voiced by support for a gas tax; last Friday, you decided to agree...I believe we must instead give voters an honest comparison of our ideas," said Wheeler, who is currently the Oregon State Treasurer.

You can read Wheeler's letter here.

Hales responded with a letter that said his official duties are his first responsibility, but that many debates will undoubtedly be held over the next seven months before the May Primary Election.

"I think it is important we be respectful of their civic role and planning as the entire range of appearances are considered, as well as the possibility of others entering the race," said Hales.

Hales also said his recent actions on homelessness and the gas tax were not responses to Wheeler's statements.

"I am very proud of the progress we have made and are making of the two issues you referenced, which are the culmination of nearly three years of work with my colleagues. Of course, those who have followed the work of the City of Portland

over that time know that," said Hales.

You can read Hales' letter here.

Wheeler's campaign released the letter during a previously scheduled City Council work session on the recommended Comprehensive Plan update that will guide city growth for the next 20 years. Sarah Bott, a Hales' campaign spokesperson, initially said the mayor was too busy with city business to immediately respond to the challenge.

"His first priority is fulfilling his duties as Mayor, and he will respond to the specifics of Mr. Wheeler’s letter in due course," said Bott.

"Of course there will be multiple debates and joint appearances in the next seven months leading up to the primary election in May 2016, and the Mayor is looking forward to these."