APC-GPB debates get 100 percent participation from candidates running statewide; now it’s up to viewers to watch – next 3 Sundays: 6 to 8 p.m.

By Maria Saporta

We did it!

The Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series has successfully received confirmation from every candidate it has invited to participate in its general election debates.

It is the first time for as long as I can remember that we have had 100 percent participation from every candidate – a welcome and rewarding development for our debate series.

As we were in the early stages of our general election debate planning, we issued a 100 percent participation challenge.

In the last few years, we had become increasingly concerned that candidates were not accepting our debate invites ­– denying voters an opportunity to actually make a more informed decision before going to the polls.

We believed issuing a 100 percent participation challenge would be a positive way to encourage candidates to accept our invitation (of course we were prepared to inform the public about which candidates were not participating).

Again, in our minds, having every candidate participate in all of our debates guaranteed that the real winner was the Georgia voter.

For more than 20 years, I have chaired the Atlanta Press Club’s debate committee. We have always remained committed to our policy that if a candidate is invited and chooses to not participate, he or she will be represented by an empty podium and his or her opponent will get the opportunity to answer questions from a panel of journalists as well as share what question they would have wanted to ask his or her opponent if present.

It is our way of rewarding the candidate who accepts our invitation and is willing to answer questions in an unrehearsed public forum while providing a disincentive for those who don’t accept.

But we found out that in this day and age political consultants sometimes appear to have greater influence on campaigns than the actual candidate.

They forget that they are working for someone who is running for public office to serve their constituents. They would rather play it safe and not take the political risk of participating in a debate where they would have to think on their feet and possibly have some kind of slip-up.

Unfortunately, one candidate debates do not make for entertaining television or stimulating exchange. So we wanted to do everything we could to make sure we would get full participation.

We also wanted to be sure our debates would have significance and make an impact. We really increased our social media presence this year; we worked really hard to build more interest among news organizations, journalists and bloggers to cover and actually attend our debates; and we have made sure they are available online after the fact for those who might miss them when they are broadcast.

The APC Loudermilk-Young Debate Series also is spread out across three Sundays – in two hour blocks on Georgia Public Broadcasting for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Oct. 12, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26.

Thanks to the Atlanta Press Club’s partnership with GPB, we provide the most extensive debate series in Georgia — with all the contested races for Constitutional officers broadcast statewide.

It is a fascinating time in Georgia politics where there are viable candidates for every office from both the Republican and Democratic parties, and in some cases, the Libertarian party.

I am sure we received 100 percent participation partly because of the changing political and demographic dynamics in the state where there is real competition in both the primaries and the general election in many races.

Several of these races actually have national interest this year, and CSPAN already has express interest in rebroadcasting our key debates.

So now that we have put so much work into putting on these debates and making sure candidates helped us meet the 100 percent participation challenge — all to help voters be more informed when they go to the polls, please watch our debates.

You can either follow them as they’re being broadcast on GPB – Channel 8 in metro Atlanta, record them on your DVR or whatever device you have or catch them later on the web.

And once informed, please vote.

Here is the broadcast line-up of our debates for the next three Sundays:

Sunday, Oct. 12: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

6 p.m.: Labor Commissioner

Mark Butler, Republican (incumbent)

Robbin Shipp            , Democrat

6:30 p.m.: Agriculture Commissioner

Gary Black, Republican (incumbent)

Chris Irvin, Democrat

7 p.m.: State School Superintendent

Valarie Wilson, Democrat

Richard Woods, Republican

7:30 p.m.: Attorney General

Greg Hecht, Democrat

Sam Olens, Republican (incumbent)                                                           

Sunday, Oct. 19: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

6 p.m.: Secretary of State

Doreen Carter, Democrat

Brian Kemp, Republican (incumbent)

6:30 p.m.: Lt. Governor

Casey Cagle, Republican (incumbent)

Connie Stokes, Democrat

7 p.m.: Governor

Jason Carter, Democrat

Nathan Deal, Republican (incumbent)

Andrew Hunt, Libertarian                                               

Sunday, Oct. 26: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

6 p.m.: Insurance Commissioner

Ralph Hudgens, Republican (incumbent)

Liz Johnson, Democrat

Ted Metz, Libertarian

6:30 p.m.: 12th Congressional District

Rick Allen, Republican

John Barrow,  Democrat (incumbent)

7 p.m.: U.S. Senate

Michelle Nunn, Democrat

David Perdue, Republican

Amanda Swafford, Libertarian           

We also are taping a web-only debate for the Public Service Commission – District 4 on Oct. 19. It will be available on the Atlanta Press Club’s website.

PSC- District 4 (web-only)

Daniel Blackman, Democrat

Aaron Gilmer, Libertarian

Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, Republican (incumbent)

For people interested in attending the debates in person, please check the full debate scehdule  (most of them will be taped earlier in the day of the scheduled broadcast).

Debates will take place at Georgia Public Broadcasting and air on the statewide station. Media are encouraged to attend. Please RSVP for each debate to [email protected]. Feeds of all debates can be accessed through Encompass Digital Media at 800-295-4198 or [email protected].

Additionally, the Atlanta Press Club is taking question submissions for Georgia Governor (October 19th) and U.S. Senate (October 26th) debates. Submitted questions may be presented to candidates on air by the moderator during the debates. To submit a question, you may email [email protected] or tweet your question using the hashtag #AskAPCDebates.

For follow up questions or comment from Atlanta Press Club Executive Director,  Lauri Strauss,  please contact Lauri Strauss at 404.523.1318,  [email protected] or Jessi Ford at 770.500.6087,  [email protected]., Follow the debates on Twitter: #APCDebates, Like The Atlanta Press Club on Facebook: www.fb.com/theatlantapressclub.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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