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Ask MPR Mailbag

August 28, 2006

Why did MPR cancel the gubernatorial candidate debate at the Minnesota State Fair?

I was distressed to learn that Minnesota Public Radio has cancelled the State Fair debate among gubernatorial candidates because some candidates declined to participate.

I do not know for how many elections MPR has held this debate, but it seems to me that rather than cancelling them, MPR should schedule the debate and give the hour to whoever is willing to show up. Refusals to participate in what is an important part of the democratic process should not be rewarded.

Stillwater, MN

Dear Mary, the gubernatorial debate at the State Fair has been something of a tradition on MPR, and we're disappointed that we can't offer one this year. According to the folks at Midday, here's what happened:

Because the State Fair is held before the primary election September 12th, 2006 there are in fact 6 major party candidates for Governor (2 in each major party). We invited all six to the Fair. Some confirmed right away, but Governor Pawlenty declined. When the governor declined, Mike Hatch also chose to decline. With two leading candidates out of the debate, it did not seem right to carry on with the other four.

However, we have featured each of the candidates in two separate one-hour call-in programs on Midday already. So all six have been heard from, and our listeners have had an opportunity to ask them questions.

I know this is disappointing for many of our listeners -- it is for us as well. However, I can say that we'll definitely be hosting a gubernatorial debate before the general election. So stay tuned.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services