Snyder, Schauer to meet in town hall
— After weeks of posturing, Gov. Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer have agreed to face-off Oct. 12 before a live televised audience of undecided voters at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Snyder's and Schauer's campaigns announced Monday evening their candidates will answer questions in a gubernatorial town hall forum co-sponsored by The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and Detroit Public Television, which will broadcast the event on Channel 56.
"We're pleased the two campaigns have agreed to face one another on a public stage to address the issues critical to Michigan voters," said Jonathan Wolman, editor and publisher of The Detroit News. "The interest of voters are better served when they can compare the candidates side by side, for themselves, rather than be at the mercy of the endless barrage of campaign advertising."
Detroit News Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley and Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson will co-moderate the forum and pose questions.
Detroit Public TV anchor Christy McDonald will host the town hall and take questions from the audience that will be screened in advance to appeal to undecided voters and cover a broad range of issues.
"We are excited that Michigan voters will be able to see the two candidates who want to be Michigan's governor sharing a stage to debate the issues that affect them and their families," Dianne Byrum, debate negotiator for the Schauer campaign, said in a statement.
A statement from Snyder's campaign said the event would be in addition to a statewide tour of town hall meetings the Republican governor plans to hold before the Nov. 4 general election.
"Rick Snyder is committed to engaging directly with voters," campaign spokeswoman Emily Benavides said. "As previously announced, the governor will conduct a series of town halls for an open and free discussion with Michigan voters on the issues that matter most to them."
The hour-long Sunday evening event will begin at 6 p.m. The Detroit Lions are playing the Minnesota Vikings that day at 1 p.m. in Minneapolis. Should the Tigers make a deep run in the postseason, there won't be any conflict with Major League Baseball's schedule. There is no game scheduled Oct. 12 during the American League Championship Series.
Both candidates agreed to a free-flowing format without opening or closing statements. Audience members will be undecided voters chosen by polling firms that work for The News and Free Press.
While there will be no formal time limits, each candidate will be given 30 seconds to respond to direct statements, accusations or personal criticisms made by their opponent.
"The moderators reserve the right to interrupt if they perceive a candidate is taking too long to answer a question, is drifting off topic, or is attempting to monopolize the conversation," according to a written format agreed to by both campaigns. "If either candidate interrupts the other, the moderators should cut off the candidate who interrupts and remind the audience of the rules."
The town hall forum may be the only time the two men vying to be Michigan's chief executive for the next four years share a stage together this fall.
Benavides said the governor will use the forum to present an "optimistic message of nearly 300,000 new private sector jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in six years, four balanced on-time budgets in four years, and an increased investment in education" and his plan for a second term.
"Mark will share his vision of a building an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, and the governor should be prepared to defend his record over the past four years," said Byrum, a former Democratic legislator.
Last week, Snyder's campaign announced the governor would hold a series of 10 town hall meetings across the state, starting Sept. 29 in Kalamazoo.
Snyder's campaign has scheduled two other town hall events Oct. 2 in Sterling Heights and Oct. 4 in Detroit, but has not released details about where the meetings will be held and how voters can attend.
Schauer's campaign called the town hall meetings a "stunt" designed to shield Snyder from debating his opponent on live television.
"Rick Snyder continues to duck and dodge the debates we have called for and the people of Michigan deserve," Schauer said Sept. 17 on Twitter.
The Republican governor recently suggested voters don't need to see the two men debate.
Snyder also has said he was willing to meet Schauer for a joint appearance at the Detroit Economic Club on Oct. 13. But the two sides could not agree to a time.
Schauer wanted a televised debateat night, while Snyder wanted a mid-day event because the Michigan Republican Party is hosting a fundraising gala for him that evening at the Detroit Marriott in Troy featuring former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Separately, Schauer has accepted three debate invitations from WXYZ, CBS Detroit and Michigan Public Television. Snyder has not responded those invitations.
Detroit Public Television plans to make its broadcast of the Oct. 12 town hall forum available to other broadcast stations across the state.
"This town hall event be as accessible as possible to the citizens of the state of Michigan," Rich Homberg, President and CEO of Detroit Public Television, said in a statement. "We feel it is our obligation, as the state's largest public broadcaster, to use our resources to share this event with as many voters as possible."