Channel 4 Tapped as Home of 2010 Statewide Debates
With five statewide elections and competitive races developing for all of them, 2010 is shaping up to be an election year to watch. And now, 14 months before anyone casts a ballot, organizers are moving to make it easier to watch debates between the candidates.
The partnership that produced debates during the last two election cycles - Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association - announced Tuesday that its 2010 primary and general election debates between U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates would be broadcast on network television in at least the two largest media markets in the state.
The debate series, to be known as "Decision 2010: Before You Vote," will air on Miami ABC affiliate WPLG channel 10 and Orlando CBS station WKMG channel 6. The debates will also be shown on independent station WJXT channel 4 here in Jacksonville, the oldest station in the city and our CBS affiliate until 2002.
FPA president Dean Ridings said the debate partnership would also try to add network broadcasts in the remaining eight media markets in the state: Tampa, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Gainesville, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Panama City and Sarasota. Historically, mid-term election debates have been shown on public television.
But moving to network TV would increase the number of potential viewers, which would make for a better election, Leadership Florida President Wendy Abberger said during a news conference.
"The debates of 2010 will provide every Florida voter the opportunity to learn more about the candidates and the issues in these critical races," Abberger said. "Democracy flows from an informed electorate and we're confident that millions of Floridians will tune in."
Abberger said that the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Bill McCollum, had already agreed to participate in the debates and the leading Democratic candidate, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, had expressed interest as well. Invitations were also sent to the Senate campaigns of Gov. Charlie Crist, former House Speaker Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, though none had officially responded yet, Abberger added.
The debate partnership is also considering hosting forums for the Cabinet races, Abberger said, but those plans have not been finalized. As they were in 2006, the debates will be hosted by Nova Southeastern University on its Broward County campus and limited to candidates drawing a specified percentage of likely voters in polls leading up to the events.
Ridings said sponsoring debates as well as covering them would allow media outlets across the state to better educate their readers and viewers.
"Newspapers value being the marketplace of ideas and providing information to readers and to voters and we feel this is an ideal forum for doing that," he said. "With open races in ... five of Florida's elected statewide offices, the 2010 election cycle promises to be the wildest and most memorable in Florida's recent political history."
Abberger said the primary debates will take place in August 2010 and the general election debates would be scheduled for October of next year. Asked why the debates were being announced so early, she said it was clear the campaigns had already begun.
"They're announcing so we decided to go ahead and announce too," she said.
Abberger also said former governors Bob Martinez, a Republican and Bob Graham, a Democrat, would serve as honorary chairs of the 2010 debates.
More information on the series can be found at http://www.beforeyouvote.org.