- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

At least one Virginia gubernatorial debate will be televised, its organizers announced.

The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce said yesterday that the Sept. 13 debate between former Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, a Republican, and Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, will be televised live on NewsChannel 8.

As of yesterday, independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., had not been invited to participate in the debate.

Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” will moderate the debate, which will be held at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. The debate is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.

The debate over the debates has become a campaign issue this summer, as Mr. Kaine calls for more of them and accuses Mr. Kilgore of ducking them. Mr. Kilgore has said he will not debate Mr. Potts.

“I don’t think our position has changed,” Kilgore campaign spokesman Tucker Martin said yesterday.

Mr. Kaine and Mr. Kilgore have participated in one debate so far.

A recent statewide poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research Inc. showed Mr. Kaine leading with 38 percent of 625 likely voters surveyed and Mr. Kilgore with 37 percent. Mr. Kilgore had held an eight- to nine-point lead in numerous polls conducted earlier this year.

Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester, pulled 9 percent of the vote. Sixteen percent of those surveyed were undecided. The margin of error was four percentage points. The poll was conducted for several newspapers in Virginia.

Chamber spokesman Tony Howard said its debate traditionally has involved “the two individuals most likely to win.” A panel of reporters and chamber members will ask the questions in front of an audience of 500 Northern Virginia business leaders.

“We invite only the major-party candidates that enable us to provide the most value to our members,” he said.

When asked what the chamber would do if Mr. Potts gained in the polls, Mr. Howard said the chamber is taking a “wait-and-see attitude.”

Mr. Potts has asked supporters to lobby on his behalf to allow his inclusion in the debate. The Mason-Dixon poll showed that 58 percent of those surveyed want Mr. Potts included.

“Mr. Kilgore obviously is showing his very cowardly approach to the debate, and he paid dearly in the last poll for it,” Mr. Potts said yesterday. “It’s the biggest single reason that he’s dropped so dramatically in the polls.”

Mr. Martin said he expects there will be another televised debate before the Nov. 8 election.

He noted that the 11 television stations that were at the Virginia Bar Association debate earlier this month were “free to televise” it, but chose not to.

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