Debating about the Debates | Slag Heap
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Debating about the Debates

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2009 at 1:23 PM

First there was this release from mayoral candidate Kevin Acklin's camp at 1:12 this afternoon:

After three months of challenges and delays, the competing candidates for Mayor of Pittsburgh have accepted Kevin Acklin's call to debate, agreeing to participate in three televised events. Neither Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, nor Franco "Dok" Harris, agreed to take part in a town hall forum debate, which the Acklin Campaign proposed and at least one local station was interested in hosting.

"I'm thrilled that voters will be able to see all three of us on the same stage," Acklin said, "But I'm also disappointed that the other candidates refused to answer questions directly from voters. As candidates for public office, we have a responsibility to interact with voters and directly address their concerns."

"I'm out in the neighborhoods talking to voters every day, and they always get straight answers from me. That will be my commitment when I'm elected Mayor."

The debates will be broadcast on KDKA, WPXI, and WTAE. The KDKA Debate will be taped on Friday, October 16th, and most likely air the next day. WPXI will tape on the 29th and air on WPXI Saturday, November 1st, and on PCNC November 1st and 2nd. WTAE will record its debate on Wednesday, October 21st, and most likely air it that night at 7pm -- making it the only prime-time debate this election cycle.

All three debates will be podium-style and will not be filmed in front of a studio audience, despite calls from the Acklin campaign for a more interactive, voter-friendly format.

Acklin's statement was followed up by THIS release from Franco "Dok" Harris' camp just a few minutes ago: 

Kevin Acklin released a misleading statement today regarding the willingness of Candidate for Mayor Franco Dok Harris to engage in specific debate formats.  "This amounts to a flat out lie by the Acklin campaign and we’d like to see it retracted," commented campaign manager Michael Capozzoli.

The Franco Dok Harris campaign has been expecting to engage in debates since their initial announcement in March. Furthermore, the initial release requesting debates included Town Hall Meetings as a desirable format.

"This kind of inaccurate and insinuating release has no place in a progressive and above board campaign," says Franco Dok Harris.  "It’s a minor point, did we ask for town halls or not, but it’s sleazy and is exactly the tactic that I am campaigning against. To somehow insinuate that I am unwilling to debate and answer voters or that he was the sole individual pushing for debates is ludicrous."

In fact, the debates were organized by Franco Dok Harris' campaign manager, Michael Capozzoli.  “The Mayor has one person on staff who happens to be an old friend of mine.  When we approached them about putting together debates, he asked me to help set them up, whic we did. So, in reality, Acklin is accepting our invitation.  While we could have spun that to make Acklin look insignificant, we chose not to. We intentionally took the high road because Dok believes this should be about ideas and about who is the best candidate, not about who can lie or spin most effectively,” said Capozzoli. "Furthermore, in my conversations with the stations, I heard strong resistance to trying to do a town hall based on logistical issues. I suggested taking questions by email and Youtube and a number of possible ways to incorporate voter questions.  In the end, we settled on the format the broadcast outlets wanted. We’re just happy the Mayor agreed to debate at all, frankly."

The Harris campaign is calling on Acklinto issue a retraction of that statement and to clean up their campaign to exclude this kind of pointless politicking and focus on the issues.

Why do I get the feeling that, before the debate has even begun, Luke Ravensathl has somehow won the first round? 

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