Pro-Potts: Sabato's the one who held out

The University of Virginia Center for Politics asked two newspapers to run corrections to editorials published last week on the matter of the October 9 gubernatorial debate sponsored by the organization.

Op-ed pieces in the Newport News Daily Press and The Washington Post claimed that the Center had agreed to a 15 percent inclusion standard for independent candidate Russ Potts at the request of the Jerry Kilgore campaign.

The Daily Press editorial appeared on August 18. The Post commentary was published a day later.

On August 15, The Augusta Free Press reported that UVA political science prof Larry Sabato, director of the Center, had said that he had held out for four months in order to get the 15 percent condition included in an agreement that both Kilgore and Democrat Tim Kaine would sign off on.

"I'm not a debate dictator. If I was, it would be a three-way debate," Sabato says. "But I'm just the guy trying to coordinate everything. The candidates don't have to listen to what I have to say. I've been organizing gubernatorial debates in Virginia since 1981, and it's never easy."

In a letter to The Washington Post, Sabato defended the Center's role in setting the 15 percent standard for Potts' inclusion in the October televised debate.

"The Center, not the Kilgore campaign, as your editorial states, proposed the 15 percent rule in our original proposal to the campaigns in May," Sabato wrote in the letter.

"The Kilgore campaign immediately balked. We could have had a debate agreement in May had we caved in, but instead we held firm for about four months, insisting that the debate needed to provide a reasonable, consistent way for Potts to qualify," Sabato wrote. "Finally, under pressure to agree to a statewide TV debate, the Kilgore campaign relented a couple of weeks ago. Our position never changed; the Kilgore camp's position changed."

Larry Sabato