Debate Debacle: Orlando ‘Forum’ Will Move Forward with McCollum Alone
Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association will proceed with an Aug. 11 Republican gubernatorial debate, whether or not GOP frontrunner Rick Scott shows up.
“We are going forward with the debate and if Rick Scott does not participate, we will turn it into a forum,” FPA President Dean Ridings said Monday.
In mid-July, the two groups announced gubernatorial debates would be held on Aug. 11 at the studios of WKMG-TV in Orlando and be broadcast statewide in addition to previously scheduled debates in South Florida and Tampa. But the Scott campaign did not agree to the debate and asked that it be moved to Jacksonville.
The McCollum campaign, the press association and Leadership Florida agreed to instead host a debate in Jacksonville, but Ridings said they received no reply from the Scott campaign. So the groups will go back to their original plan and host a “debate” on Aug. 11 in Orlando, and leave it up to Scott whether to show up.
If Scott declines to participate, it will look more like a forum where McCollum gets to answer questions. Ridings said journalists who are familiar with Scott's positions could pose questions from the other side. Plans for a statewide television broadcast are off, but the event – whatever it ends up being - will be Webcast.
“We feel like Florida's voters deserve to know more about the candidates than a 30 second commercial,” Ridings said.
A spokeswoman for the Scott campaign said that the campaign had not changed its position about wanting a a north Florida debate and that Scott would not participate in the Orlando event.
“If they want to proceed without Rick, then I am sure Floridians will enjoy an hour of Bill McCollum debating himself,” said Scott spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.
Ridings said the event sponsors were “very concerned” that the event may be construed as giving McCollum a free forum, and said the groups would do everything possible to make sure Scott’s positions were represented.
Scott and McCollum taped a debate in Miami Monday at Univision's studios that was set to air Monday night in some markets. The two will also debate this Thursday in Tampa, though that debate will only be televised in certain markets as well.