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Showdown in the Rio Grande Valley

Abbott's demands means audience not welcome at debate with Davis

By Richard Whittaker, 3:30PM, Tue. Sep. 2

Abbott, Davis set for Rio Grande Valley debate after sponsors agree to block
Abbott, Davis set for Rio Grande Valley debate after sponsors agree to block "disruptive" (ie any) audience
Greg Abbott by Jana Birchum, Wendy Davis by John Anderson

Attorney General Greg Abbott may have spiked his Dallas debate with Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, but it seems their arguments over a Rio Grande Valley meeting have paid off. Carlos Sanchez, editor of the McAllen-based The Monitor said, "We've got beyond that impasse, and September 19 we will be having a debate."

Last week, Abbott pulled out of the previously-booked WFAA/Texas Tribune debate on Sept. 30 (and is now trying to sub in a Dallas Morning News-sponsored event on the same day). However, the Sept. 19 event in Edinburg, sponsored by The Monitor, NBC affiliate KGBT-TV Action 4 News and KLTM Telemundo 40, is still going on.

Sanchez said that, after consultation with both campaigns, the event has been transferred out of McAllen "over the road" to the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in neighboring Edinburg. He added that the debate should also be available statewide, countering WFAA's claim that it was the only debate scheduled for broadcast all across Texas.

Sanchez said that the debate will be in "a traditional format." There will be three moderators, one from each of the sponsoring media partners. Each candidate will have a minute to answer a question, with 45 seconds for response. There will be no opening speeches from the candidates, but there will be closing statements. Most importantly, he said, "There will not be a studio audience."

This was the point of original conflict between Davis and Abbott: The Democrat wanted the public present, but the Republican wanted the event behind closed doors. At the time, Sanchez wrote that "the Abbott campaign has expressed concerns that a live audience can be disruptive to the debate."

Eventually, the Davis campaign gave Abbott what he wanted, but "they did so reluctantly." However, while Abbott has ensured that the disruptive electorate will be kept out of the room Sanchez said there will be a watch party at a nearby room in the conference center.

Sanchez said he was not surprised about these latest headlines: "The debate over the debates became a story early on." He noted that, back in April, he wrote a column calling Davis out for turning down the debate (actually, as he noted at the time, they said they had not made any firm decisions, and The Monitor's invite was in fact on the list of six debates that Davis proposed in May).

More info, including details about tickets for the watch party, at www.themonitor.com/debate.

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