COLUMBIA -- Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen has invited his opponent Republican Nikki Haley to a series of debates across South Carolina.

Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, wants to debate Haley, a state representative from Lexington, in five Lincoln-Douglas style debates on five different topics in five different regions of South Carolina. 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.

Haley's campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said Haley is up for debates -- but she's not accepting all his terms.

"Nikki looks forward to debating with Vincent Sheheen and the opportunity to contrast her conservative reform vision for South Carolina with Senator Sheheen's liberal ideology and status-quo vision," Godfrey said in a statement. "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."

Haley's campaign did not immediately offer alternative dates and forums.

Lincoln-Douglas debates are named after the seven 1858 verbal sparring matches held around Illinois between Stephen A. Douglas, a senator, and the future President Abraham Lincoln.

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 30-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."

In the 2002 gubernatorial race, Republican Mark Sanford issued a similar debate challenge to incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges.

"I want to have substantive, issues-based debates with the governor, not a bunch of 30- and 60-second sound bites," Sanford said at that time. "We should have a series of Lincoln-Douglas type debates."

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855 or ywenger@postandcourier.com.