Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio get dates for re-election debates


The sparring partners are still to be determined, but the dates that Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will debate their rivals have been set for mid-October.

On Oct. 18, Rubio will take the stage at Palm Beach State College’s Lake Worth campus with his challenger or challengers. Polls indicate that he’ll be face-to-face with U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

DeSantis will follow at the same place on Oct. 20, according to a release from the “Before You Vote” TV Debates Project. He is likely to be wrangling with either Charlie Crist or Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, pending the outcome of next week’s Primary Election.

The debate series is the longest running in Florida history and this year’s is expected to draw national attention. These parleys will air live from 7 to 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Rubio has expressed “an intent to participate,” according to debate organizers, the release says. DeSantis’ level of commitment was not specified in the Tuesday release, but the debate organizers point out that he participated in 2018 “Before You Vote” General Election gubernatorial debate with Andrew Gillum.

As the situation stands, debate rules call for the two Republican incumbents elected statewide to debate the official nominee for their position from the Democratic Party in addition to “any viable candidates.” That would be any qualified candidate that has the support of at least 12.5% of likely voters as measured by Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy.

It will air through 10 broadcast partners throughout the state. They are: WBBH (NBC) in Fort Myers, WCJB (ABC) in Gainesville, WJXX (ABC) in Jacksonville, WTVJ (NBC) in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, WESH (NBC) in Orlando, WMBB in Panama City, WEAR in Pensacola, WCTV (CBS) in Tallahassee, WFLA in Tampa/St. Petersburg and WPBF in West Palm Beach.

WPBF will be the lead producing station and, as he has in the past debates, WPBF anchorman Todd McDermott will moderate the programs with a select panel of journalists, to be announced soon, according to debate organizers.

The debate will be simulcast on statewide public ration, on participating TV stations’ websites or Facebook pages and on daily newspaper websites or Facebook pages. A national rebroadcast on C-SPAN after the live debate has aired.

The debates are part of a large collaboration of partners across the state. And, this year, the Everglades Foundation has become a sponsor of the event, joining Florida Trend, The James Madison Institute, the Leroy Collins Institute, AARP Florida, the Florida Press Association, the Florida League of Cities and Palm Beach State College.

Former NBC News executive producer Phil Alongi and veteran PBC and NBC News executive producer Phil Alongi II will produce the two debates, the release said.

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