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David Jolly and Alan Grayson to debate in U.S. Senate race Monday

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Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly and Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson will debate for Florida’s U.S. Senate race Monday in a format to be broadcast on the internet.

The very existence of the debate, which Grayson and Jolly announced with no details March 1, is controversial because it features just one Republican of five major candidates and just one Democrat of at least two major candidates.

And it has them facing off four months before anyone has a chance to become their parties’ nominees in the Aug. 30 U.S. Senate primaries.

So, left out are Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who’s been leading in many polls; and Republicans U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, businessman Todd Wilcox, and businessman Carlos Beruff.

The backing organization, called the Open Debate Coalition, said it used the invitation criteria of the Commission on Presidential Debates; and only Jolly, Grayson and Murphy qualified. Murphy declined an invitation, according to the coalition.

The debate will be novel in many ways, starting with the Open Debate Coalition. It is a stew of conservative activists such as Grover Norquist, the president of Americans For Tax Reform; progressive activists such as Terry O’Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women; and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Craig Newmark, founder of

What they have in common is their united effort to create a new, web-based debate format, which they say will bring politics into the internet age to make it more “of the people.”

In a news release issued by the coalition, Jolly declared, “The people decide elections. The people deserve a larger role in which questions get selected and asked.”

In that release, Grayson stated, “Pre. Jolly agreed to join me in debating the issues that matter most to those who will pick Florida’s next senator. Using the Open Debate Coalition model helps ensure we actually resound to the will of the people — and not just answer to the whims and wishes of the establishment and special interest agendas.”

All the questions will be submitted by individuals over the internet, and voted upon over the web, at The moderators must pick from among the top 30 vote-getters. The question submissions and voting begin Tuesday morning.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Jolly and Grayson will be face to face answering questions in a studio in Orlando. Details on exactly where have not yet been released.

The debate moderators will include The Young Turks, which claims to be the world’s largest online news show.

The debate will broadcast through an open video feed to any website or TV station that wants to transmit it, with no copyright concerns.

“This debate represents a new high-water mark when it comes to debate that represent the will of the people,” Lilia Tamm, Open Debate Coalition program director, stated in a news release. “Bottom-up Open Debates unite people across the political spectrum because they are not about right versus left, but new versus old. With modern technology, we can utilize the wisdom of crowds at and bypass silly questions, gotcha questions and questions about the news of the week — and focus on issues voters care about most.”

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]

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