More than 24 hours after tickets for an upcoming mayoral debate were to be distributed to the public, sponsors of the event say are still unsure about how they plan to fill the seats at the one-hour forum.
The debate is scheduled for July 25 at the Palladium in downtown St. Petersburg. It will air live on Bay News 9, making it possibly the most important night so far of the campaign.
“We’re discussing our plans with our partners to make sure the debate is successful,” Times spokesperson Sherri Day said Wednesday. “We’ll provide updated information when we have it.”
The debate is co-sponsored by the Times, Bay News 9 and the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College
Charter Communications, the parent company of Bay News 9, is refusing to comment. On Tuesday, Nikia Redhead, the manager of public relations for the cable company, issued an email to reporters alerting them about the free distribution of tickets (two per customer) that would take place at the Palladium.
However, hard tickets were never distributed. Many of those waiting in line for tickets were members of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.
Uhuru members have been extremely enthusiastic participants at two previous City Council candidate debates. Their outbursts have led debate moderators to chastise them for those outbursts.
On Monday night, all seven candidates for mayor engaged in a debate sponsored by the Downtown Neighborhood Association at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront Hotel. The event was preceded by debate among the candidates running in District 6.
The moderator of the event was unsuccessful in trying to limit the outbursts during the council debate, and the mayoral debate ended sooner than anticipated when candidate Theresa “Mama T” Lassiter engaged in a shouting match with a member of the audience.
“What happened Monday night is very destructive towards trying to have any kind of rational, civil discourse,” said the current District 6 Council member, Karl Nurse. “We’re either going to have to find a way to eject the people who do they, or not have live audiences at televised debates. It did not work in terms of trying to let the public see what people think.”