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MN 7TH: Byberg says Peterson ignores town-hall meeting requests

MOORHEAD - The challenger for District 7's congressional seat took aim Monday at Rep. Collin Peterson, saying the 10-term Democratic incumbent ignored his requests to hold joint town hall meetings to take questions from the public.

In a Moorhead campaign stop that's part of a weeklong tour through the 7th District, Lee Byberg, the GOP candidate from Willmar, said Peterson hasn't responded to an Aug. 24 letter seeking joint question-and-answer sessions.

"We are facing a time in our history that will define our nation," Byberg said in an editorial board meeting with The Forum. "We need to have an open dialogue."

Byberg said he wanted to keep the request for forums private, but went public due to the lack of response from Peterson's campaign.

Allison Myhre, a spokeswoman for Peterson, said Monday afternoon that she didn't know about the request and would have no comment until she had more information about it.

The candidates have one more debate scheduled before the Nov. 2 election, a taped exchange to air on Prairie Public Television on Oct. 27.

It wasn't the first time in recent years that Peterson took flak for avoiding town hall meetings. In 2009, Peterson said he didn't conduct town halls because 25 percent of his constituents think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. He later apologized and held public meetings in Bemidji and Willmar.

Byberg leveled the accusation as the race began to heat up two weeks prior to the election. A day following Byberg's appearances in Moorhead, Peterson and DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton will be in Moorhead today for a news conference on water issues.

A recent story on a news website, MinnPost, speculated that the race might be Peterson's first close battle since the mid-1990s.

In response, Peterson released an internal poll from Sept. 28 showing him well in front of Byberg, with 54 percent to the GOP challenger's 20 percent. The poll of 404 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.