COLUMBIA — Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen has challenged opponent Republican Nikki Haley to a series of five debates.

Sheheen wants to debate Haley in five Lincoln-Douglas style debates on five different topics in five different regions of South Carolina, according to Sheheen’s campaign. Sheheen sent the request in a letter that was mailed last week.

“I challenge you to debates on jobs and the economy in Greenville, education in Columbia, governmental reform and transparency in Charleston, comprehensive tax reform in Rock Hill and infrastructure and tourism in Myrtle Beach,” Sheheen wrote in the letter. “I propose the debates follow the Lincoln Douglas format as prescribed by the National Forensic League, the oldest and largest interscholastic forensic organization in the United States.”

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said Haley will debate Sheheen but not necessarily in the venue Sheheen pitched.

"Nikki looks forward to debating with Vincent Sheheen and the opportunity to contrast her conservative reform vision for South Carolina with Sen. Sheheen's liberal ideology and status quo vision," Godfrey said in an e-mail. "But I'm sure you'll forgive us if we refrain from allowing our opponent to unilaterally determine the locations, formats, and topics of those debates."

The guidelines for Lincoln Douglas Debate are six minutes from the first speaker, a 3-minute cross examination from the second, followed by a 7-minute speech from the second participant. Next comes a 3-minute cross examination from the first speaker to the second. Finally, the debate finishes with a 4-minute rebuttal from the first speaker, a 6-minute rebuttal from the second and a 3-minute rebuttal from the first speaker.

Sheheen said this format will provide voters with a clear take on where the candidates stand.

“These debates will provide South Carolinians with a comprehensive and thorough evaluation of both of us so that they won’t have to make such an important decision based on a thirty-second sound bite,” Sheheen said in a statement. “I believe voters need a series of robust examinations of our positions to not only understand our governing philosophies but also begin to rebuild the trust that elected officials will act in ways consistent with their stated beliefs.

“Voters, with such an important choice at such a crucial time, want the chance to fully know the candidates for governor. They deserve to know who will chart a new course for this state starkly different from the last eight years and who will attempt to carry on the failed legacy of Mark Sanford.”