A Democrat and a Republican plan to travel the state next month to hold 90-minute-long debates focused on key issues.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Rants of Sioux City and former Des Moines School Board member Jonathan Narcisse, a Democrat, will face-off six times in December to debate issues like tax reform, public safety and reducing the size of government at all levels.  Rants says he’s willing to accept the risk that he may say things that aren’t “universally accepted” by Iowans.

“Despite the fact that Iowa is facing a number of serious challenges, what’s happening in the gubernatorial debate right now — it’s become an issue-less debate,” Rants says.  “It’s more about who has the best name I.D. or personalities and it’s not really about ideas. It’s not really about solutions.”

Rants says the potential rewards outweigh the risks, as he may reach Iowans who he wouldn’t see at traditional Republican gatherings.

“I don’t believe in campaigns that are just soundbites and 30-second ads. I believe campaigns have to be about ideas and if the other Republican candidates won’t engage in that kind of debate, I’ll take it where I can get it,” Rants says.  “And when Jon made the offer, I thought about it and thought, ‘You know what?  There is more upside to this than there is downside.'”

Narcisse says the events are in the tradition of the historic “Lincoln-Douglas” debates.

“Iowans are hungry for solutions,” Narcisse says. “…The negativity, the sniping, the pandering, the platitudes have grown tiresome.  Iowans are hurting and Iowans want answers.”

Narcisse and Rants have set up a website — http://www.iowasolutionsdebate2010.com — where you can learn more about the debates.  The six debates will be held in Bettendorf, Ankeny, Council Bluffs, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Waterloo.