Before You Vote has announced details for televised debates for Governor and U.S. Senate next year.
Mid-October debates will be held at the Palm Beach State College main campus in Lake Worth. While specific dates were not announced, debates will be held on Tuesday nights from 7 to 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live, then rebroadcast on Thursdays. Stations in the Central Time Zone plan to air rebroadcasts at 7 p.m. local time.
“We are honored and excited to be the host site for these important debates in the most respected televised political debate series in Florida’s modern history,” said Ava Parker, Palm Beach State College president. “In addition to this being a major (educational) tool for our campuses and community, the larger statewide community of voters will also greatly benefit.”
Alongi Media, run by former NBC News executive producer Phil Alongi and veteran PBC and NBC News executive producer Phil Alongi II, will produce the two debates. The father-and-son team has won more than 100 Emmy Awards for debates and broadcast specials, including a 2016 debate between U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, and a 2018 debate between now-Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum.
Both Republican incumbents are seeking re-election.
The debate organizers announced 10 broadcast partners: WBBH (NBC) in Fort Myers; WCIB (ABC) in Gainesville; WCTV (CBS) in Tallahassee; WEAR (ABC) in Pensacola; WESH (NBC) in Orlando; WFLA (NBC) in Tampa-St. Petersburg; WJXX (ABC) in Jacksonville; WMBB (ABC) in Panama City; WPBF (ABC) in West Palm Beach; and WPLG (ABC) in Miami-Fort Lauderdale. WPBF, the ABC affiliate in West Palm Beach, will serve as the producing station. WPBF anchor Todd McDermott will moderate debates with a panel of journalists still to be determined. McDermott moderated the 2016 Senate and 2018 Governor debates produced by Alongi Media.
“This ‘Before You Vote’ televised debate series has served the state and its citizens so well in the past several election cycles — and the 2022 edition is committed to the same level of fair and excellent dialogues,” said Caroline Taplett, president and general manager of WPBF. “Our incumbents, Gov. DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Rubio, know this series well from having participated in it during their last elections, and we respectfully expect them and their Democrat opponents to accept the invitations to debate.”
The debates will also be simulcast on public radio, newspaper websites and partner news station websites. C-SPAN will rebroadcast the debates.
“We expect massive media coverage of these 2022 races and debates for Governor and U.S. Senate — and that helps an informed electorate to make their best and most thoughtful decisions,” said Jim Fogler, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association. “We’re proud to be a part of this diverse nonpartisan team committed to producing the highest quality debates.”
Organizers with Before You Vote, Florida’s longest-running debate project in the modern era, said the debates will be especially important as both the Senate and Governor races have already sparked tremendous national interest. Anchoring partners for the debates include The James Madison Institute, AARP, the LeRoy Collins Institute and the Florida Press Association. AARP and the Florida League of Cities both will serve as underwriting partners, and two other such sponsors are expected to join.
“Meaningfully, this ‘Before You Vote’ series will help voters learn more about the candidates and where they stand on the issues that matter most to millions of Floridians,” said Dr. J. Robert McClure, President, and CEO of The James Madison Institute. “The cumulative audience for these vital forums is understandably expected to be tremendous.”
Dr. Lonna Atkeson, director of the LeRoy Collins Institute, echoed that sentiment.
“In a sharply divided political time of our history, spirited but civil debates are vitally key to getting the facts and truth about our leaders and their policy positions,” she said. “The heart and soul of our democracy and the Republic itself rely on leaders helping to solve our shared problems.”
Jeff Johnson, state director for AARP, stressed the importance of the debates to the coming election season. “As the nation’s third-largest state, with the highest per capita population of older Americans, Florida looks forward to learning the candidates’ positions on key issues of concern,” he said. “Every demographic segment of our nearly 22 million people will benefit from these high-profile conversations.”