TALLAHASSEE -- There will be at least one statewide televised gubernatorial debate next year. Maybe.
On Tuesday, Leadership Florida, a civic organization that promotes public service, and the Florida Press Association announced they were once again teaming up to sponsor a "Decision 2014: Before You Vote" televised debate during next year's general election for governor -- although the announcement is coming 14 months early, and without a clear picture of who incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott might face (assuming he doesn't lose in a primary).
Leadership Florida President Wendy Abberger said the groups were making their announcement now because of interest from other organizations, such as universities and think-tanks, in hosting debates. The groups sponsored the only statewide, televised debate in the 2012 U.S. Senate contest, and sponsored debates in the 2010 governor's race. In recent years, the debate has been the only such forum picked up by local network affiliates in all 11 television media markets (if you want to count Sarasota as a separate TV market from Tampa-St. Pete; I don't, but they do).
"Increasingly, its become a little bit of a competition," Abberger said at a Tallahassee press conference. "A variety of entities have said we want to be in this game."
Abberger said the details of when and where would likely be firmed up by this October.
One note of potential concern to third-parties: the debate organizers are setting a higher threshold for being included in the debate -- a 15 percent support showing (including the 4 percent-point error margin) in a Mason-Dixon poll they will conduct.
That threshold used to be lower -- around 12 percent in 2010 -- and so now third-party candidates would have to hit at least 11 percent support in the Mason-Dixon poll to get on the stage.