- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) - A debate for U.S. Senate candidates was canceled after the owner of the venue barred candidates from saying anything critical about the incumbent, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby.

Shelby didn’t attend the debate set for Thursday night at Hoover Tactical Firearms, but candidates who are opposing him showed up.

Al.com (https://bit.ly/1KusUmx ) reports that Hoover Tactical owner Gene Smith first questioned whether the debate was booked properly by a tea party group that organized it.

Smith then described himself as a strong Shelby supporter and said no one could make negative statements about the longtime legislator since he wasn’t there to defend himself.

Shelby challengers then refused to participate, and Smith called off the event.

Shelby faces four challengers in the GOP primary on March 1.

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