Q. When is the vice presidential debate now scheduled for St. Petersburg?
9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Q. Where will the debate be?
In the Bayfront Center's Mahaffey Theater.
Q. Who is the sponsor of the debates?
The non-profit, non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates.
Q. I thought St. Petersburg would be the site of a presidential debate, not a vice-presidential debate? What happened?
The Commission originally recommended St. Petersburg as the site for one of three debates between President Clinton and Bob Dole. However, the final decision was up to the candidates. On Saturday, after nine hours of negotiations, the two campaigns agreed to have the vice-presidential debate between Al Gore and Jack Kemp in St. Petersburg. The campaigns agreed to scrap the presidential debate scheduled for St. Louis, and to have the other two presidential debates Oct. 6 in Hartford, Conn., and Oct. 16 in San Diego.
Q. Will the change from a presidential to a vice-presidential debate cause many problems?
There would have been more problems had the date been changed. However, some details will have to be redone. The Mahaffey Theater probably will require less set construction because the meeting between Gore and Kemp will be a traditional debate rather than the town hall meeting. Many of the improvements the city of St. Petersburg has made, such as new sidewalks and new landscaping in the downtown area, would have been done even if no debate were held here.
Q. Who are the hosts of the debate in St. Petersburg?
The St. Petersburg Times, the City of St. Petersburg, the University of South Florida, and the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Q. Will the debate be televised and, if so, will many people watch?
The debate will be nationally televised. In 1992, the vice presidential debate among Quayle, Gore and Stockdale drew more than 35 percent of the television audience.
Q. What will be the format for the St. Petersburg debate?
The debate will last 90 minutes and will feature a single moderator posing questions to the candidates.
Q. How many seats does the Mahaffey Theater have? How many will be used for the debate? Who gets tickets?
The theater seats 1,998. It is unknown how many seats will be used for the St. Petersburg debate. Camera placement and equipment considerations, as well as Secret Service needs, will determine the number of seats available. The majority of available seats will go to the media and the campaigns.
Q. What events are open to the public?
There are many ways for citizens to participate in the events surrounding the debates. Among them, the debate hosts have planned a series of DebateWatch Community Forums on the evenings of the debates. More than 2,000 citizens are expected to participate in the forums, where the audience will discuss issues and watch the debates on a large screen. Most of the tickets to the forums already have been selected by random drawing through coupons distributed in the Times and throughout the community in August. The forums will be televised live on WTVT-Ch. 13.
Public tours of the Mahaffey Theater _ which the commission will convert to a TV studio for the debate _ have been scheduled for Oct. 7 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Q. What other plans does the University of South Florida have for the debate and the campaign season?
USF will host a Statewide Student Forum for several hundred students before the debate, on Oct. 5. USF is offering several courses tailored to the debate and to the campaign.
Q. What is the Commission on Presidential Debates?
In hopes of making debates a permanent fixture of presidential campaigns, the non-profit, non-partisan commission was formed in 1987. The Washington-based commission selects the proposed sites and produces the fall debates.
Commission co-chairmen are Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Paul G. Kirk Jr., a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Other board members include Caroline Kennedy; former Missouri Sen. John C. Danforth; U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia; former Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr; Rep. Barbara Vucanovich of Nevada; Newton N. Minow, former head of Federal Communications Commission; Antonia Hernandez, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Sen. Paul Coverdell of Georgia. Honorary co-chairmen are former Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter. The executive director of the commission is Janet H. Brown.
Q. Who are the hosts of the other debates?
Based on the Saturday agreement between the campaigns, the first presidential debate will be Oct. 6 in Hartford, Conn. The second debate, Oct. 16, will be hosted by the University of San Diego.
Q. What criteria did the commission consider in selecting St. Petersburg as a host city?
At each site that bids on a debate, the commission considers the debate hall, press area, city services, community support, teamwork, transportation, hotel space and financial contribution.
Q. What is the cost of producing a debate?
The commission receives $500,000 from each site to cover equipment and personnel costs. The $500,000 was guaranteed by the Times, which then sought co-sponsors. Joining the Times are AARP, Northern Trust Bank and Eckerd Corp.
Q. How many members of the media are expected in town for the debate? Where will they be?
Several hundred. The Bayfront Center Arena will serve as the media center.
Q. Who handles media credentials for the debates?
The U.S. Senate and House Press Gallery Staff.
Q. Who will moderate the debates?
The moderators have not been announced. The commission proposed that a single moderator conduct the debates and says it wants to avoid network anchors as moderators because their "star quality" can distract attention from the candidates.
Q. Where were the debates in 1992?
At Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich.; at Washington University in St. Louis; at the University of Richmond, Va.; and at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta.
Q. Where will the candidates stay?
The St. Petersburg and Tampa area will provide more than 2,500 rooms for the campaigns of the debate participants, Commission on Presidential Debates, and the media. The St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is offering a central reservation housing service for all rooms for the debate. The reservation service and visitor information number is (800) 345-6710. The suggested headquarters hotels for the participants are the Stouffer Renaissance Vinoy Resort and the Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa.
Q. What about security?
Because the debate is in the city of St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Police Department represents the primary local agency that will work with the U.S. Secret Service. Because of the complexity of the event and the need for a safe and secure environment, additional law enforcement and security resources will be available.