- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

RICHMOND — Democratic and Republican nominees for governor tentatively agreed yesterday to a televised statewide debate in October.

Some differences remained open to negotiation by the campaigns of both Republican Jerry W. Kilgore and Democrat Timothy M. Kaine, including the date of what is likely to be the only broadcast encounter between the two men.

The debate will be held at the Richmond studios of WWBT-TV, jointly sponsored by the television station and the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and moderated by the center’s director, political science professor Larry J. Sabato.

This year’s debate, however, will be exposed to a much larger audience than previous gubernatorial forums because WWBT has offered the satellite feed of the event to any Virginia station at no charge.

In the past, the event had been shared live only with affiliates of the same network in each of the state’s television markets.

Mr. Kilgore, who had been under fire for resisting invitations to appear on a televised face-to-face forum with Mr. Kaine, announced that he had agreed to an Oct. 9 date.

Mr. Kaine, however, is pushing for a date closer to the Nov. 8 election. Campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee said the debate’s hosts had proffered three dates — Oct. 9, Oct. 16 and Oct. 23.

“There are three dates on the table, and we are going to talk about them,” Mr. Elleithee said. “We look forward to sitting down with the sponsors and having a conversation about it.”

Mr. Kilgore, however, said the date is a done deal.

“It’s awfully funny for a campaign that’s been jumping up and down, saying we will debate any time, anywhere, to quibble over the date,” said Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Mr. Kilgore had also refused to appear in the same forum with independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester and strident critic of Mr. Kilgore’s.

Mr. Kilgore agreed to the debate on the condition that Mr. Potts participate only if two statewide polls show Mr. Potts’ support at 15 percent or greater.

The most recent independent, scientific poll, conducted late last month by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc., showed Mr. Kaine the choice of 38 percent of those surveyed, Mr. Kilgore favored by 37 percent and Mr. Potts at 9 percent.

Mr. Potts’ campaign manager, Thomas D’Amore, used a barnyard epithet to angrily dismiss the 15 percent cutoff.

Mr. D’Amore said precluding a candidate from expressing his ideas based on his showing in the polls “just seems downright un-American to me.”

“I understand their right. What I don’t understand is their rationale,” he said.

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