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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Stations will televise U.S. Senate, governor debates

Debates for the 2010 governor and U.S. Senate races will be broadcast statewide on network television stations in all 11 media markets, a historic level of exposure for what promises to be a historic election year.

Leadership Florida president Wendy Abberger announced the debates this morning during a press conference. She was joined by Florida Press Association president Dean Ridings, whose organization is partnering with Leadership Florida for the debate series dubbed Decision 2010: Before You Vote.

The moderators and format have not been decided, but all announced candidates so far have been invited, with Republican attorney general and would-be governor Bill McCollum confirming he will attend. Abberger said she also expects Sink will participate -- although a primary debate might not be necessary, since it appears Sink will not have a Democratic challenger for governor.

So far, the ABC affiliate in Miami and the CBS station in Orlando are on board to broadcast the debates live from Nova Southeastern University in Broward County. Also, WJXT-Ch. 4 in Jacksonville will air them.

Former Govs. Bob Martinez, a Republican, and Bob Graham, a Democrat, will serve as "honorary chairs" of the debate series. Abberger said those positions are a first for the Leadership Florida debate series, which started in 2004.

"We believe they will lend credibility and bipartisanship" to the project, Abberger said. "Democracy flows from an informed electorate, and we're confident millions of Floridians will tune in for these lively, spirited debates."

She said debate organizers are exploring the idea of debates for the Cabinet races, given the historic nature of 2010.

"Every single seat is wide open. No incumbents are running," Abberger said. "I don't know that we've ever had that."

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[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 7:03pm]

    

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