GOP Ducks KLRU Forum

Face-to-face dialogue between opponents? Can't have that!

A funny thing happened on the way to the KLRU-TV candidates' forum. The Republicans ran roughshod over the public television station, rewrote the format of the debate, and – surprise! – stole the elect ... er, show. As such, the station was forced to scrap its tried-and-true forum format in deference to the "scheduling conflicts" of the three GOP legislative candidates who didn't want the forum in the first place.

Now, as outlined in the "Republican Victory 2004" letter put forth by state Reps. Todd Baxter and Jack Stick and House hopeful Alan Askew, KLRU will interview all candidates separately – not by a panel of journalists as is usually the case, but by public affairs director Tom Spencer, usually the moderator of these events. This is in accordance with Republican Victory rule No. 1, which states: "You [Spencer] moderate the proceedings and are the sole questioner for all candidates." Rule No. 5 on the list of demands will also apply in the new format: "Candidates are not permitted to listen to each other so as to avoid unfair advantage to either."

Speaking of fairness, two of the Democratic candidates – Mark Strama (running against Stick in District 50) and Kelly White (challenging Baxter in District 48) – questioned how voters among the viewing public would benefit from seeing the candidates in controlled, scripted infomercials of sorts. "We are eager for the opportunity to discuss our different legislative priorities in an open, public forum," they wrote in a letter to their opponents, "so that voters might come to understand the differences between us."

Clearly, not even presidential candidates make these kinds of demands, but KLRU president and general manager Bill Stotesbery preferred to play down the pains in the station's neck. He explained that the candidates' schedules were such that it made more sense to shift to a format of individually taped interviews. "At this point we're trying to find a format that will allow everybody to be seen," he said. But even that appears iffy. As of Monday, the station was still waiting to hear back from some of the candidates. Stotesbery said he didn't know which ones had not yet scheduled interviews, but we have an idea.

One is Askew, of Wimberley, the GOP nominee in District 45. The Democrat he's trying to unseat, Rep. Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs, walked into the KLRU studio on Sept. 22 for what he thought would be a debate with his Republican rival. But Askew was a no-show, so Rose sat down for a one-on-one with Spencer, and that interview will air Friday on Spencer's Austin Now program. Producers, who this week were still uncertain about Askew, had hoped to run the Rose/Askew interviews back to back during the Friday night program. But who knows? After Rose's segment, maybe all they'll have to show for the other guy is dead air.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Election 2004, KLRU-TV, Jack Stick, Todd Baxter, Alan Askew, Patrick Rose, Mark Strama, Kelly White, Tom Spencer

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