After battling over how many debates they would have, U.S. Senate candidates Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy have agreed to at least two tête-à-tête's so far before the November election, and several more debates are still on the table.
Murphy's campaign on Monday said it had committed to at least two other events — one debate and one candidate forum — while Rubio is still pushing for six debates in all.
Rubio, the Republican incumbent, and Murphy, his Democratic challenger, will participate in a live, one-hour debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The event, announced Monday evening, will be sponsored by WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, Politico Florida and two Cox Media Group radio stations.
"The race for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida will be one of the most watched in the country," Paul Curran, vice president and general manager of WFTV Channel 9 and WRDQ TV-27, said in a statement. "This is an opportunity for our viewers to hear directly from Senator Rubio and Representative Murphy on where they stand on the key issues facing our region, our country and the world. Our expectation is that both candidates will use this forum to better educate the voting public on their vision for the future."
Rubio and Murphy had also previously committed to a debate at Broward College on Oct. 26, sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.
Neither of the agreed-to events are in Miami, nor are they Spanish-language debates. Rubio, who is fluent in the language, had requested at least one debate be sponsored by a Spanish-language media outlet.
The morning after the Aug. 30 primary, Rubio challenged Murphy to six debates. Murphy has said he'd have "multiple" debates with Rubio, but whether he'd commit to six would be contingent on Rubio committing to serve a full six-year term in office, if re-elected. That counter-challenge is in reference to the potential for Rubio to run for president again in 2020.
Murphy said in a statement Monday that he was "excited to debate Marco Rubio and talk about the issues that matter most to Florida families." But Rubio accused Murphy of "ducking debates yet again."
"I did six debates six years ago. Why only do half now?" Rubio said in statement. "Floridians today deserve no less than what they received in 2010, and they deserve to know where we stand on the important issues facing our country."
In addition to the two agreed-upon debates, Murphy's campaign said Murphy had also committed to a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Telemundo and WFLA News Channel 8 in Tampa. The date and parameters of that event haven't been set, but Murphy's campaign said it would feature Spanish-language translation.
Rubio's campaign earlier Monday said it was looking into that event, but the league originally pitched it as a forum and specifically "not a debate."
"We're not opposed to doing an event with the league, but we're giving priority to actual debates," Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said.
Murphy also plans to participate in a forum with the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches on Nov. 2 in West Palm Beach, his campaign said.
Several officials with both the league and the Forum Club have donated to Democrats in the past, including Murphy.
Meanwhile, Rubio's campaign has committed to four other debates, which Murphy's campaign has not — including two with two of the state's largest newspapers.
The Miami Herald and news partner WFOR CBS-4 TV in Miami have proposed a debate at a time to be negotiated. As of Monday evening, Rubio's campaign had expressed interest in participating, while Murphy's campaign had not responded to the invitation.
The Tampa Bay Times — in partnership with Scripps TV stations, Telemundo and three other stations in Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville — invited Rubio and Murphy to debate on Oct. 11 in St. Petersburg. Rubio has accepted.
Rubio's campaign said it also agreed to two other debates, sponsored by Univision Network and WESH Channel 2 in Orlando, respectively. The dates haven't been set.