By Walter Jones for Morris News Service
Voters anywhere in the state will get to see and hear candidates in the top contested primaries debate in a series organized by the Atlanta Press Club to be televised by Georgia Public Broadcasting.
“We look forward to another busy season with our Loudermilk-Young Debate Series,” said Lauri Strauss, the club’s executive director. “Our debates are an important public service giving candidates the opportunity to debate each other and helping voters learn about each candidate so they can make an informed decision on Election Day.”
The series is named for Aaron Rents founder Charlie Loudermilk, who is the financial underwriter, and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young.
The nation’s second-largest press club has become the premier host of Georgia election debates because of the reach of its broadcasts and the respect candidates have for it. More than a few candidates in past years selected the Atlanta Press Club debate as the only time they shared a stage with opponents.
Several of this year’s debates were triggered by the retirement of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and the vacancies created when three congressmen gave up their seats to run for his. The senator stressed the value of debates on Thursday.
“Debates are a critical element to any election,” he said. “We have the distinct privilege in the United States to elect our government officials, and it is important voters have the opportunity to hear directly from the candidates in opposition to each other in order to make an informed decision.”
This year’s series kicks off May 11 with the Republicans in the 10th congressional district at 5 p.m. and the GOP hopefuls in the 12th at 6 p.m. The evening is capped off with the showdown between the Republicans running for the U.S. Senate.
The next evening, the Senate Democratic hopefuls will faceoff.
On May 14, the Republicans running for governor take the stage.
On the 18th, debates include the Republicans for the 11th District and separate events for those from each party running for state superintendent of schools.
They will be held in the GPB studios in Atlanta, and they’re open to the public. Some debates will occur earlier and videotaped for later airing.
“GPB is proud to once again broadcast the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young Debate Series giving Georgians state wide an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates they’ll have the opportunity to vote for on Tuesday, May 20,” said GPB Chief Operating Officer Bob Olive. “The Press Club debates offer one of the few chances voters have to evaluate candidate stands on issues of substance and importance.”
Because of limited air time, the club is conducting a debate for the one contested primary for the Public Service Commission at The Commerce Club and streaming it live online.
All qualified candidates are invited to participate. Those who decline are represented by an empty lectern as a way to illustrate that the club does not exclude anyone.
Journalists from media outlets that cover particular races volunteer to moderate and serve as panelists to pose questions for the candidates to discuss. The series also allows each candidate to question one opponent, often the only time in months-long campaigns that candidates actually have a one-on-one dialog.
The club’s staff is issuing formal invitations to candidates and pinning down journalists for their roles.
Here are the times candidate debates sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club will air on Georgia Public Broadcasting:
7 p.m. – Public Service Commission, Republicans
5 p.m. – 10th District, Republicans
6 p.m. – 12th District, Republicans
7 p.m. – U.S. Senate, Republicans
7 p.m. – U.S. Senate, Democrats
7 p.m. Governor, Republicans
5 p.m. – 11th District, Republicans
6 p.m. – Superintendent of Schools, Republicans
7 p.m. – Superintendent of Schools, Democrats