One way or another, we will have a gubernatorial debate.
The Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman and the state’s other major newspapers will host a gubernatorial debate this fall, even if just one candidate shows up.
The newspapers, along with Austin public television station KLRU, will deliver a letter to Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White today, inviting them to a debate at the KLRU studios on the University of Texas campus Oct. 19.
Perry has said he will not accept debate invitations until White agrees to release his income tax returns from his time as deputy energy secretary in the mid-1990s.
“If only one candidate shows up for the debate, we will discuss issues with him alone for the entire hour,” says the letter, which is signed by the editors of the American-Statesman, the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, as well as Bill Stotesbery, the CEO of KLRU.
How should the debate sponsors best represent Rick Perry?
1. Empty chair
2. Cardboard cutout
3. Guy dressed in a chicken suit
Leave a comment and let me know.
One more thing:
The sponsors plan to make the debate available to television outlets around the state. But federal regulations limit how much airtime a station can give a particular candidate, which means a one-candidate debate might not be televised.
“It could affect our broadcast plans, but we will be working over the next couple of weeks to define that more clearly,” Stotesbery said.
Newspapers will stream the debate on their websites regardless of how many candidates participate, but television likely would offer a much broader audience.
The sponsors will invite all candidates who register at least 10 percent support in a September poll conducted by the newspapers, meaning minor-party candidates are not likely to participate.
Seems to me if there ever were a time to be more generous to third-party candidates, this would be it. From a purely partisan perspective, I would prefer to see Bill White have the stage to himself for an hour. I don’t see how the organizers of this debate can justify that. If all the editorial boards that called on Perry to act like a grownup and face the voters in public don’t get their wish, there’s no reason not to let the other candidates in instead.
UPDATE: Nick Anderson votes for the cardboard cutout.