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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kilgore OKs debate with Potts, Kaine; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. might get his shot at debating the Republican candidate for governor after all. He’s just got to come up with more supporters.

After months of refusing to share the stage with Potts, the campaign of former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore an-nounced Tuesday that he would participate in a televised debate in October in Richmond with both independent candidate Potts and

Democratic hopeful Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

But all three have to be polling at 15 percent or higher to get in the door — the same standard used by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

Potts has yet to break 9 percent in any published poll since he entered the race. Until now, Kilgore has said he’d only debate a candidate “who has a chance of winning.”

“This will be an excellent chance for the people of Virginia to compare the records and the vision of the candidates for Governor,” Kilgore wrote in an e-mail.

The GOP candidate has taken much abuse from his two opponents over his refusal to debate Potts, and declined an invitation from a Roanoke television station to participate in another televised event.

Both have accused Kilgore of being afraid to stand on the same stage as the Democrat and independent with the whole state watching. But Kilgore said Tuesday he’s been planning on a televised debate the whole time.
Potts’ campaign continues to argue that Kilgore is ducking an appearance with the Winchester Republican state senator.

NBC affiliate WWBT-12 will broadcast the debate, to be moderated by University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, and will make the feed available to any television station in the state, regardless of network affiliation.

Kaine and Kilgore will also meet on Sept. 13 in an event sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce to be moderated by Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Tom D’Amore, Potts’ top consultant, said the campaign has accepted the invitation and will be on hand for the event in Richmond.

“I think we’re probably at [the 15 percent threshold] now,” he said. Still, “we do not expect the premise that there’s a threshold of any kind.”

Getting Kilgore to accept third-party participation in any form is progress, D’Amore said, but added that he was disappointed that the station and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics would exclude Potts under any circumstance.

“We must be getting to [Kilgore],” he said.

Using the presidential standard for inclusion is just another way to try to block Potts, D’Amore said. The CPD uses 15 percent because there’s no national standard for who is and isn’t a candidate.

Virginia, on the other hand, “is blessed with standards.” Candidates are whoever is on the ballot, D’Amore said.

“That should be the only standard,” he said.

Format and rules have yet to be negotiated by the campaigns.

Election Day is Nov. 8.