U.S. Rep. Steve King
U.S. Rep. Steve King
Friday, July 13, 2012

Officials from the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, and former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack have agreed in principle to a televised debate in Carroll in late October, just days before the election. It could be the second-to-last joint appearance by the contenders for the new 4th Congressional District seat.

The campaigns, working in conjunction with Iowa Public Television, have said the debate will take place Thursday, Oct. 25, in Carroll at a location and time to be determined.

“The city and county of Carroll have always been in Congressman King’s proposals for debates,” Jimmy Centers, communications director for King’s campaign, said in an interview this morning.

Also this morning, Sam Roecker, communications director for Democrat Vilsack, confirmed the Carroll debate.

“We agreed to take part in the ‘Iowa Press’ debate in Carroll,” Roecker said.

The Daily Times Herald was involved with the negotiations for the Carroll event, but there is no decision about any potential role for local media with the regular “Iowa Press” journalists. Veteran Sioux City Journal political writer and blogger Bret Hayworth, a former reporter for the Daily Times Herald, is expected to be one of the panelists.

Centers characterized the full debate schedule and negotiations as “still fluid.” But the campaigns have indicated Carroll is locked in, largely because of the “Iowa Press” involvement, which eliminates any haggling over format. The campaigns have discussed the Santa Maria Winery as a possible site, but other locations remain in play.

With the election on Nov. 6 and the King-Vilsack race drawing national attention, Carroll will be in the spotlight with the late October exchange broadcast statewide (and perhaps beyond).

“The closer you get to the election the more important each and every day becomes,” Centers said.

Discussion are ongoing about whether certain other events are debates or forums. The Vilsack campaign says it agreed to a mixture while King is pressing for a schedule that includes all debates. Both King and Vilsack term the Carroll appearance a “debate.”

The campaigns have tentatively agreed to eight more debates/forums: WHO Radio debate, Sept. 6; Clay County debate or forum, Sept. 8; Franklin County debate or forum, Sept. 17; Ames debate sponsored by the Ames Tribune, Iowa State University and League of Women Voters at 7 p.m., Sept. 22 at Iowa State University; Orange City debate or forum, Sept. 27; Sioux City debate sponsored by the Sioux City Journal and KCAU-TV at Morningside College, Oct. 9; Fort Dodge forum/debate sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, Iowa Central Community College, The Fort Dodge Messenger and Three Eagles Communications at 7 p.m., Oct. 23, at Iowa Central Community College; and a Mason City debate sponsored by Three Eagles Communications, Mason City Globe-Gazette and KIMT-TV at 7 p.m., Oct. 30, at North Iowa Area Community College.

The campaigns are ironing out details on a KCCI-TV/Des Moines Register format for a possible 10th joint appearance. King reportedly wants to see a free-flowing Lincoln-Douglas-style debate where the candidates question each other with limited interference from the media. Vilsack lists the event as a “debate.”

King has not debated challengers in his last four races in the current 5th District — against Matt Campbell of Manning in 2010; Rob Hubler of Council Bluffs in 2008; and Joyce Schulte of Creston in 2006 and 2004. King did debate Democrat Paul Shomshor of Council Bluffs in 2002 – including once on Iowa Public Television at an event broadcast from Carroll High School.