pallone-082509Congressman Frank Pallone meets the press following his raucous town hall meeting on health insurance in Red Bank in August, 2009. (Click to enlarge)

Tea Party-backed GOP congressional hopeful Anna Little‘s camp is charging incumbent Frank Pallone with ducking a faceoff on healthcare scheduled for tonight in Red Bank, the Star-Ledger reports.

Both Pallone’s camp and the sponsor of the event claim, however, that there was to be no debate, and the Pallone had never committed to attend. He cites a scheduling conflict.

Hosted by the Monmouth County Medical Society, the event was originally scheduled to be held in an auditorium at Riverview Medical Center, but then was relocated to the Oyster Point Hotel to accommodate an anticipated larger crowd, the Sledger says.

A press release issued by the Little campaign earlier this week called the event a “debate.” But Catherine Johnson, executive director of the medical society, tells the newspaper that each candidate was slated to speak for 10-15 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer session.

“We want information, not a free-for-all,” Johnson said. “We just wanted to invite both candidates to see what they have to say about health-care reform as a service to our members and to the public.”

Still, a sharp difference of opinion on last year’s federal health insurance law was likely as Pallone, who boasts of being one of the law’s authors, shared a dais with Little, the former Highlands mayor who has been sharply critical of it.

Here’s how the Little camp characterized Pallone’s no-show yesterday:

“Frank Pallone is scared to talk to doctors in New Jersey about the government takeover of healthcare he rammed through the Congress,” said Little. “And that’s disappointing. Not surprising, I must say, given his efforts to do everything he can to find ways not to have to appear on the same stage or in the same forum with me, but disappointing nevertheless.

“The good news,” continued Little, “is that I’ll have all that time to myself to hear the doctors complain about PalloneCare!”

Last week, Pallone refused to appear on set with Little to tape NJN’s “On the Record” broadcast; instead, Little sat by herself in studio to take questions from Michael Aron, while Pallone was interviewed in his office by NJN’s Adrienne Supino. Meanwhile, Little has accepted an invitation for a debate to be hosted and aired by News 12 New Jersey, but the station is still waiting for a response from Pallone.

Rather than take questions from New Jersey doctors and constituents concerned about the passage of PalloneCare (remember, he is on record declaring that “This is not Obama’s bill. This isn’t Nancy Pelosi’s bill. This is MY bill.”), the 22-year-incumbent has chosen instead to opt for the potentially more receptive audience of the Ocean Township Democratic Club.

According to an event invitation posted yesterday at Organizing for America – a Democratic National Committee front group – the Ocean Township Democratic Club will play host to Pallone at 7:30 PM.

You can read about the Ocean Township Democratic Club event here:

“It’s one thing to disrespect your constituents so much that you don’t take their views into account when deciding how to cast a vote in Congress,” concluded Little. “But when you don’t even respect them enough to show up and take their questions, and opt instead for the refuge of an appearance before a local Democratic Club, you’ve taken disrespect to a new level.

From the Sledger:

In a statement, Pallone said the Little campaign was “falsely describing” the event.

“This is not a debate and it never was a debate The Monmouth Medical Society will confirm that they are sponsoring an “Evening With The Candidates” forum for its member doctors,” Pallone said. “(The Little campaign) have been asked by the society to clear-up the confusion they have caused by correcting the record.”

Johnson said the event will continue with Little only at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Oyster Point Hotel.

In a raucous town hall meeting held by Pallone in Red Bank in August, 2009, three seatings of angry voters shouted down the 22-year incumbent Democrat at every turn.