Organizers of a proposed U.S. Senate debate on the campus of UL Lafayette are hopeful to put the event on next month, but say that right now it's all up to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
Associate UL political science professor Ryan Teten says he is in almost weekly contact with the Vitter camp, which has informed him that they are still weighing several options regarding debates right now. Vitter's main Senate challenger, Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon, has challenged Vitter to five televised debates, including the one at UL. Thus far, Vitter has only agreed to one of those forums — to be held Thursday, Oct. 28 in New Orleans, less than a week before the election, and broadcast by WWL-TV. Vitter has signed on to several Tea Party-sponsored forums, which Melancon has rejected, noting the events have a conservative bias and often pre-screened questions.
The proposed UL debate would take place at UL's Angelle Hall on one of two proposed dates: Monday, Oct. 18 or Wednesday, Oct. 27. It would be broadcast by KATC and likely moderated by anchor Hoyt Harris, who would relay questions from the public submitted through the station or the live audience.
"I can't see a lot of downside to it," Teten says before noting that incumbents polling ahead in a race, like Vitter, will often play it safe by limiting their debate appearances. Teten helped put on a similar debate at UL between Congressman Charles Boustany and his challenger, state Sen. Don Cravins Jr., in 2008. The UL professor adds that two or three other third party Senate candidates may be invited to attend as well, but not until both Vitter and Melancon have signed on. "Obviously," Teten says, "from Melancon's side, he's all for it and his camp is trying to make it happen and KATC is going to broadcast it live and they're trying to make it happen. But right now it all hinges on Vitter."