Hurricane Ian disrupts televised debate schedule between Gov. DeSantis and Charlie Crist

By: - October 6, 2022 9:47 am

Empty stage? Florida’s political class isn’t exactly rushing to participate in campaign debates this year. Credit: Infrogmation via Wikimedia Commons

As the November general election draws near, only one debate had been scheduled between Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist.

But that debate, originally set to be hosted by television station WPEC next week, has been postponed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, according to a Tuesday announcement from the station.

On Wednesday, the Crist campaign responded to the news by saying his campaign is working with DeSantis’ team to secure a debate as soon as possible. Crist, a former GOP Florida governor and U.S. House of Representatives member, had accepted three invitations for a debate but DeSantis has only accepted one.

“We are working with the event host and Gov. DeSantis’s team to reschedule the debate as soon as possible,” Austin Durrer, Crist’s campaign manager, said in a written statement.

“We’re the third largest state and a purple one at that; voters deserve to see both candidates on stage, with a statewide audience, discussing their records and vision for moving Florida forward. I think we’ll have good news to report shortly.”

Although the new date has yet to be announced, “the debate management team is working with both campaigns to determine a makeup date for later this month,” WPEC wrote Tuesday.

A chance to watch

The debate was supposed to take place next Wednesday, sponsored by Sinclair Broadcast Group’s West Palm Beach television station WPEC, according to a press release. However, the massive storm tore through Southwest Florida, resulting in deaths, debris, damage to roads, buildings, and homes across the coast.

“The move to postpone the debate is meant to ensure all Floridians have an opportunity to adequately recover from the storm and watch the debate,” WPEC reported on Tuesday. “WPEC-TV is committed to making sure all Floridians have an opportunity to hear from the candidates before Election Day.”

As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, voters in the state may not get many opportunities to watch candidates square off with each other before TV cameras in various races before the general election.

That’s because many candidates from both major political parties are choosing to ditch televised debates, according to Susan MacManus, professor emerita of politics at the University of South Florida.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.