Florida statewide televised debate coalition grows; Rubio committed, DeSantis still a question mark

by | Aug 18, 2022

  • The coalition organizing two statewide televised debates has added the Everglades Foundation as a sponsor
  • U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has committed to participating in an October 18th debate against the Democratic party nominee to be determined next Tuesday
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has yet to commit to participating in statewide televised debate slated for October 20th against the winner of the Crist-Fried Democratic primary
  • West Palm Beach ABC affiliate anchorman Todd McDermott will moderate the debates

Florida’s longest-running televised political debate series is expected to generate national interest in late October, just weeks before election day, and although U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has signed on for a Tuesday showdown with the eventual Democrat nominee, Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to commit to a gubernatorial debate slated just two days later.

Earlier this week, the coalition of groups producing statewide televised debates in the general election races for U.S. Senator and Governor announced major progress points in the project, including the addition of The Everglades Foundation to the already diverse lineup of partners and sponsors, including The James Madison Institute, AARP Florida, Florida Trend, the LeRoy Collins Institute, the Florida Press Association, and the Florida League of Cities. According to a press release from the group, one more sponsor is still expected to join the project.

The statewide televised debates now have locked-in dates: Tuesday, October 18th, for the U.S. Senate race, in which incumbent Rubio has already expressed an “intent to participate” to debate organizers. Rubio similarly participated in the 2016 “Before You Vote” televised debate with former Congressman Patrick Murphy.

Thursday, October 20th is the date for the Gubernatorial debate. And although DeSantis also participated in the 2018 “Before You Vote” general election gubernatorial debate with former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, both debate organizers and the DeSantis campaign say there has not been a decision made on whether he will participate.

DeSantis Rubio, both national political figures, are already the Republican nominees for reelection as no one qualified to challenge either candidate in next week’s primary election. The Democrat nominees for Governor and U.S. Senator will be determined in the August 23 primary election.

Beyond the official nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties for U.S. Senator and Governor, debate invitations would only be extended to any other candidate(s) who meet the official criteria established by the debate organizers. The criteria are based on a statewide survey of likely voters to be conducted by Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy in September – in which a candidate would have to enjoy support of 12.5% of likely voters, factoring in the margin of error used in the poll. The criteria adequately include any viable candidates, while facilitating a debate that gives those qualified adequate time to represent their positions to the public.

The debates will be held at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus. A consortium of network affiliate television stations – one in each of Florida’s 10 media markets – are committed as broadcast partners. WPBF-Ch. 25/ABC, the Hearst station in West Palm Beach, will again be the lead producing station, as it was in 2016 and 2018. WPBF anchorman Todd McDermott will moderate the programs with a select panel of journalists, which have yet to be announced. The debates will be broadcast live, from 7-8 pm, EDT, except in the Pensacola and Panama City television markets, where they will be broadcast one hour later because of time zone differences.

“For many years, this partnership has helped convene the most meaningful, high-quality broadcast debates in Florida’s major elections for Governor and U.S. Senator,” said Caroline Taplett, President/General Manager of WPBF, producing station for the series. “Florida voters will truly benefit from these debates and the substantive dialogues between candidates for these important leadership positions.”

Alongi Media will serve as Executive Producer of both debates. The global media company was founded by former longtime NBC News Executive Producer Phil Alongi Sr. and is jointly operated by Phil Alongi II, Executive Producer and alumnus of PBS and NBC News. The highly decorated father and son duo run a team of producers who have won more than 100 Emmy Awards for debates and broadcast specials. Alongi Media produced the successful and highly acclaimed 2016 and 2018 “Before You Vote” debates featuring Sen. Rubio (2016) and then-Congressman DeSantis (2018). 


  1. John

    I’m betting DeSantis will be a no-show because his dismally unpopular policies will be scrutinized by not only Floridians, but nationally as well. If the former president enters the presidential race, DeSantis will debate.

  2. ovillegator

    DeSantis is loved here in Florida by a majority of Floridians. He is busy running our state in tough times and doing it well. He doesn’t need to waste his time on a debate.

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