It’s official. The Republican and Democratic candidates for Montana’s U.S. House and Senate seats have confirmed they will debate this fall. Both events are hosted by MontanaPBS.
John Twiggs is a MontanaPBS producer.
"It has become a strategy to reduce the exposure of your candidate and to not put them in front of that kind of scrutiny," says Twiggs. "So, I have to commend the campaigns for coming to the table, negotiating and being a part of this. The voters deserve that, and I’m glad we can be a part of that."
These will be studio-based debates without a live audience.
"There was a time where that would have been a very hard sell to the campaigns – that they would not want that," says Twiggs. "Now they almost insist on it."
Twiggs says that’s because there’s a, "Concern about the tone and tenor of the audience and whether or not you’re going to get a constructive discussion that's going on and how interrupted it will be and all those sorts of things. At the end of the day for us from a public broadcasting standpoint, we want to get these candidates to sit at the same table in the same room and have a substantive conversation about policy and issues, and the studio seems the best place for that."
In the weeks preceding the debates, MontanaPBS and Montana Public Radio will solicit potential questions for the candidates from their respective viewers and listeners.
The debates will feature questions posed by Twiggs and fellow producer and journalist Anna Rau. There will then be a period in which the candidates can engage each other and the moderators.
The selection of candidates invited to participate adheres to a set of established criteria. Both debates will be broadcast across the state on MontanaPBS and then re-broadcast the following day at 6 p.m. on Montana Public Radio.