Statewide televised debates for Florida’s U.S. Senate and governor’s elections are being set for late October in the renewed “Before You Vote” debate partnership efforts of Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.
The two groups were joined Tuesday by Broward College and WPBF, the West Palm Beach-based ABC-TV affiliate, to announce the planning and production of televised, evening debates on Tuesday, October 23, and Wednesday, October 24. Yet to be decided is which of those nights would feature the gubernatorial nominees, and which would feature the U.S. Senate nominees.
The face-to-face debates each would be held at 7 p.m. and broadcast live on participating stations across the state, except in Pensacola, where WEAR-TV may broadcast it on an hour delay to stick with the 7 p.m. time in the Central Time Zone.
There are no assurances yet that any of the nominees or the Florida Democratic Party or Republican Party of Florida will participate. But as with the 2016 statewide U.S. Senate debate sponsored by Leadership Florida and Florida Press Association, and previous debates, they’re expected to see can’t-miss opportunities, barring unforeseen circumstances.
“As in all of our past debate programs, we expect the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties to participate and to take advantage of this unique opportunity to make their respective cases to the people of Florida,” Leadership Florida Board Chair Beth Kigel said.
Broward College will house the debates. WPBF will produce the debates, with key guidance from veteran producer and project consultant Philip Alongi, a former longtime executive producer for NBC News.
The other stations slated to air the debates include WFOR in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, WESH in Orlando, either WTLV or WJXX in Jacksonville, WCJB in Gainesville, WFLA in Tampa Bay, WCTV in Tallahassee, WMBB in Panama City, and either WBBH or WZVN in Fort Myers. Organizers said the broadcast video and audio also will be available for other media following the initial broadcasts, and they hope and expect the events will receive broader play.
Underwriting sponsors will include the Florida League of Cities, AARP, and the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University. Two additional sponsors are expected to be named soon.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that Florida’s voters are in a position in this big political year to help shape the direction of our own state and also the future of national policy for several years to come,” said Wendy Spencer, president and chief executive officer of Leadership Florida. “Leadership Florida has established a well-earned reputation during our 36 years as a non-partisan, trusted convener that can be relied on to produce meaningful forums.”