Debatequestionblog

A New Approach to Primary Debate Questions

February marks the beginning of debate season here at the City Club, and this primary season, we’re doing things a little bit differently.

This year, as mentioned previously by City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop, the format of our question and answer period (Q&A) is changing. The heart of the City Club’s commitment to free speech and community engagement lies in the fact that  audience members have the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers themselves. For debates, this format allows citizens to ask direct questions to candidates seeking office. However, there are tradeoffs to such an approach, and, our usual practice opens up the possibility that audience questions may be unfairly biased in favor of one candidate or another. Our newly-formed debate committee feels that audience questions are a vital part of our mission to promote free speech, but also feels that we can do better to engage the candidates and audience in meaningful dialogue.

For our three upcoming 2016 primary debates, our debate committee has decided to pilot a new two-stage, hybrid approach to our Q&A period. We are soliciting questions for the candidates from the community in advance. Questions are to be submitted to debates@cityclub.org before each of the debates occur. Here’s a refresher on the schedule:

The United States Senate Democratic Primary Debate will be held Monday, February 22 at noon at the City Club. Kelli Prather and P.G. Sittenfeld are both participating. Former Governor Ted Strickland has declined our invitation.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Democratic Primary Debate will be held Tuesday, February 23 at noon at the City Club. Incumbent Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty and Parma Safety Director Michael C. O'Malley are both participating. 

The 24th State Senate District Republican Primary Debate will be held Thursday, February 25th at 6:30 p.m. at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. State Representative Nan Baker, former State Representative Matt Dolan, and State Representative Mike Dovilla have all agreed to participate. The Plain Dealer's Deputy Editorial Page Editor Kevin O'Brien will moderate.

Questions are due two days before the debate occurs. Once submitted, our debate committee will vet the questions to ensure a plurality and balance of political opinions. If your question is chosen, you will be notified by the committee and invited to attend the debate and ask your question in person. If your question is chosen and you cannot attend the debate, the question will be asked by a member of the debate committee. In order to preserve some of the unscripted nature of the second half of City Club forums, questions will also be solicited via Twitter and read by members of the debate committee.

We look forward to your questions. Thank you for your commitment to civil, civic dialogue!

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