Leadership Florida & Florida Press Assoc. announce dates for key US Senate debates

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The successful statewide partnership that produced historic candidate debates in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 is back – this time to help Floridians choose their next U.S. Senator. “Decision 2012: Before You Vote,” a project created by Leadership Florida, in partnership with the Florida Press Association, today announced solid details for the exciting new debate series for the 2012 primary and general election cycles, featuring the major candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. Many political observers consider this Florida contest the most-watched U.S. Senate race in the country.

The partnership’s Decision 2010 debates for the Governorship and U.S. Senate were broadcast statewide in all 11 media markets — a historic feat that Decision 2012 will replicate. The Republican primary debate is set for July 24th at Tallahassee Community College – and the general election debate is set for live statewide broadcast from Nova Southeastern University on October 17th.

“Decision 2012: Before You Vote provides millions of Floridians with the opportunity to learn more about the candidates and where they stand on the issues that matter most,” said Wendy Abberger, President of Leadership Florida. “Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association are pleased to convene these important candidate forums because they will provide statewide opportunities for open dialogue and discussion.”

The debate series sponsors and partners also include Nova Southeastern University, Tallahassee Community College, Florida Blue, AARP and the Claude Pepper Foundation.

The first debate will occur on Tuesday, July 24th, at Tallahassee Community College – and will feature candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. WFSU-TV will produce the broadcast taping for the debate. Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former Congressman Dave Weldon and businessman Mike McCalister all have confirmed their willingness to participate. The debate partnership awaits confirmation from Congressman Connie Mack to round out the primary debate lineup. The evening debate will be videotaped for quick-turnaround statewide broadcast in the following days.

“Tallahassee Community College is excited to host this important dialogue in the nation’s most-watched race for the U.S. Senate,” said Dr. James Murdaugh, president of TCC.

The second debate will occur on the evening of Oct. 17th, 2012, and will be broadcast live, statewide, from the campus of Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida, in a broadcast produced by NBC affiliate WPTV-Ch. 5, of West Palm Beach. Incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) is expected to face his Republican nominee opponent at that time. Nova Southeastern University partnered with Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association by hosting 2006 & 2010 debates for Governor and U.S. Senate.

“Nova Southeastern University continues to perform an important convening role on vital issues by promoting healthy dialogue about how best to build a better future for our state and country,” said George L. Hanbury II, PhD., president of NSU.

Pat Dorsey, publisher of The Tallahassee Democrat and chairman of the Florida Press Association, said that Florida’s newspapers will provide robust coverage of the Senate race, which may prove to be one of the key races of 2012.

“These debates will give Floridians an opportunity to assess the candidates, side by side, as they address the issues relevant to our state,” said Dorsey.

Debate participation criteria and additional details are posted at www.beforeyouvote.org.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.