The Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and FPBS and its member stations are partnering to produce a U.S. Senate Republican debate for Florida voters before the Aug. 14 primary.
The debate, scheduled for July 26, will be broadcast live to a statewide audience from the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Bay News 9 and on the Florida public TV and radio stations. It also will be available on Orlando-based Central Florida News 13, and online at tampabay.com and fpbs.org.
Candidates who have at least 5 percent support in a statewide poll of Florida voters will be invited to participate in the hourlong prime-time debate, which will be moderated by Times political editor Adam Smith and Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel.
Candidates in the Republican primary race include U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Col. Mike McCalister and former congressman Dave Weldon. The winner of the August primary will face U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in the general election this fall.
The Times, the largest newspaper in the Southeast United States, has for years presented debates that have aired statewide and nationally, including a Republican presidential primary debate in January moderated by NBC's Brian Williams.
"For as long as I can remember, the Tampa Bay Times has been sponsoring debates in campaigns for every office from City Hall to Capitol Hill, and I am delighted we are extending our series this year in the U.S. Senate race," said Paul Tash, Times chairman and CEO. "Debates give voters a good chance to look over the candidates for themselves."
FPBS and it member stations also have provided statewide debates in Florida for more than 37 years.
Bay News 9 and the Times partner each week in the production of Political Connections, the politics program hosted by Ruechel and Smith.
"Bright House Networks is thrilled to partner with Florida PBS and Tampa Bay Times to bring this primary debate to people throughout the state of Florida," said Rod Gramer, Bay News 9 vice president and general manager at Bright House Networks. "This is gearing up to be one of the most important election years to date, and it is exciting to offer this in-depth coverage to interested viewers."
Free tickets to the debate will be available to the public at the Palladium box office in early July.