USF St. Pete to hold city-sponsored debate

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The St. Petersburg City Council chose the University of South Florida St. Petersburg as the impartial host for the official city election debates.

In an article in the Tampa Bay Times, USFSP slightly edged out the League of Women Voters as the group that would “give a better appearance of impartiality.” The school will incorporate students in the planning of the debate, as well as come up with questions for candidates.

“The League of Women Voters is a great, great, great group of people who really enhance our democratic process,” council member Bill Dudley told the City Council Thursday. “I just don’t want any impropriety or any thought of impropriety to damage our reputation.”  

The main concern was that District 4 candidate Darden Rice, a past president of the League of Women Voters, would be one of the members of the debate. In addition, the League had also lobbied for issues during the campaign.  The voter’s group hosted the StPeteTV debates in 2011.

In the past, USFSP would also have a stake in city elections, but the board agreed that those “issues would likely not come up in a debate this year.”  

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.