Abbott, Davis debate too much about debates

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 03, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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If you find it difficult to keep up with the latest news on the prospective Texas gubernatorial debates, you’re not alone.

When Republican Greg Abbott’s campaign said Friday that he was pulling out of a previously agreed prime-time match on WFAA/Channel 8, citing concerns about the format, it became anyone’s guess whether the debate would happen at all.

Only hours later, Abbott’s team agreed to a Dallas debate sponsored by different media outlets — KERA, KXAS-TV, Telemundo 39 and The Dallas Morning News — that will accommodate his preferred format.

The question then was whether the Wendy Davis camp would accept Abbott’s terms and join him at KERA (it’s hard to have a debate without both of them being there).

On Wednesday, spokesman Zac Petkanas said Davis would play along with “a debate format that should give Greg Abbott the confidence he needs …”

So far, the only other face-to-face contest between Abbott and Davis is still on. It will be hosted by The Monitor in McAllen, aired on television station KGBT and Telemundo, and streamed online. But that debate is scheduled for Sept. 19 — a Friday night during football season — limiting the prospective audience.

KERA confirmed Wednesday that the Dallas debate is set to air live at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, and will be made available to all radio and television stations statewide.

The original WFAA debate was planned as a rather open round-table discussion. That would have probably favored Davis, whose speaking abilities on the floor of the Texas Senate catalyzed her meteoric rise to political stardom.

KERA said its format will be more traditional, with a panel of journalists posing questions. That format usually limits time for candidate responses.

While they are frequently overhyped, debates are an opportunity for voters to compare candidates and their platforms side by side. In a season dominated by attack ads and overzealous punditry, it may be the only chance for Texans to hear the candidates discuss the issues.

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