Former governors Tim Kaine and George Allen, who are both vying to replace retiring U.S. Jim Webb, are scheduled to debate each other in Richmond on Dec. 7, as part of the annual AP Day event.
Kaine is hoping to win the Democratic nomination for the November 2012 election, while Allen is seeking the Republican nomination to win back the seat he lost to Webb in 2006.
This has Republican candidate Jaime Radtke, who is challenging Allen for her party's nomination, accusing the "Mainstream Media" of circumventing the primary process.
Kaine and Allen are the only candidates invited to the debate sposored by the Associated Press and the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association, an organization made up of members of the state Capitol press corps - even though both are facing multiple opponents in their respective primaries.
Kaine is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by Courtney Lynch and Julien Modica. Allen finds himself in a much more crowded field, facing Radtke, Tim Donner, Earl Jackson, David McCormick, Robert Marshall, Bert Mizusawa and Corey Stewart in the Republican primary.
Radtke says this makes it a general election debate - a full six months ahead of the June primaries, where voters will decide who they want to represent their respective parties in the general election.
"The AP and VCCA ignore the fact that, by scheduling a general election debate six months before the primary, the Mainstream Media is circumventing the electoral process and telling Virginians that your voices and votes are irrelevant," Radtke said in a press release and campaign plea to supporters.
The rules for being able to participate in the debate as laid out by the AP and the VCCA say a candidate must average 15 percent or better in "published, non-candidate primary polls, andraised at least 20 percent as much money as their party's frontrunner by the end of October."
A July poll released by Public Policy Polling showed Allen favored over his Republican challengers with 68 percent. Radtke was the next highest in the field with 6 percent.
The poll did not look at the Democratic primary contest.