Monday, January 11, 2010

How ironic that the ONLY DEBATE of Republican candidates for Governor will be on NPR KERA Radio and PBS KERA TV....

In just four days the three Republican candidates for Governor will square off in their first face-to-face debate. KERA and its media partners are producing the live, televised debate which will take place before an audience gathered on the University of North Texas campus. KERA's BJ Austin takes a look at the performance each candidate is hoping to deliver.

SMU Political scientist Cal Jillson says being face to face with your primary campaign opponents will be a different experience.

Jillson: Candidates often campaign by going where they want to go - to talk to the audience they want to talk to. This is an opportunity for the entire electorate to hear them, and to hear them challenged by journalists and by each other.

What about preparing for the debate? Are the candidates doing "mock debates"? Are there particular issues getting extra attention and study? Will there be a theme each candidate hopes to pursue?

The Perry campaign is not talking about specifics. But the Governor has something to say. At a recent appearance in Fort Worth, Governor Perry noted that his job has prepared him for this debate. Even though Texas unemployment is 8%, the Governor says there are very good things happening in Texas, and he's eager to tell folks about that from the debate stage.

Perry: It's a great opportunity for me to remind people that they are very fortunate to live in a state that Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and you name it, business journals across this country have pointed out is the best place to live, to do business. And we get a lot of credit for that.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is expected to be on the attack. While declining to spell out how the Senator is preparing for the debate, the campaign does say she plans to raise issues of cronyism in Austin, education, and transportation - as she did at a recent Dallas appearance.

Hutchison: Because we will not attract business if we can't get around our state. If we can't move freight, if we can't move people, if people can't live where they want to live and work where they want to work, this will not be the best state in America.

Candidate Debra Medina, without the high political profile of Perry or Hutchison is eager to shake up GOP politics and give Tea Party activists a voice.

Medina: To let Texans know they've got three candidates. They've got three horses to choose from. I hope to help them hear and understand what the Debra Medina campaign is all about, what our beliefs are.

Medina advocates repeal of the property tax in favor of a broader sales tax; gun owner rights; and state sovereignty.

SMU's Cal Jillson says Medina needs to be prepared because the debate is a "one-shot visibility thing".

Jillson: It is an opportunity for Debra Medina to introduce herself to people; to stand on the stage with a sitting Governor and a sitting Senator and say I'm here with these people contesting for the governorship. Listen to what I have to say.

Jillson says the debate is all about gaining momentum for Governor Perry and Senator Hutchison: Perry and his record; Hutchison and her call for change.

Jillson: I haven't raised your taxes. Texas is good for business. It's good for jobs. Keep me in this position. She has to say no, things could be different, and things could be better. We don't have to make dramatic changes to see things improve even further in Texas.

A lot is riding on Thursday's debate, which will reach millions of Texans through statewide radio and TV broadcasts. The candidates will test-drive their messages on the campaign trail between now and then.

KERA Channel 13 will televise the live, hour-long debate beginning at 7pm Thursday. You can also hear it here on 90.1. Then join us Friday for Morning Edition for more on debate fireworks. At 6pm on 90.1 we'll bring you a special half hour: the Texas Debates and the Republican Primary.

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