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Planning For 2014 Gubernatorial Debates Already Underway

TALLAHASSEE (The News Service of Florida) — Florida's 2014 gubernatorial election is still more than a year away. The Democratic candidate is still a matter of speculation.

But two groups are already making plans to bring together the Republican and Democratic nominees in a statewide televised debate in mid-October 2014, a time when voters will be making up their minds and preparing to cast ballots.

Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association, which have teamed up in the past to host debates, announced the plans Tuesday. While the exact date and location are still undecided, the groups said they expect the debate to be televised on network affiliates in all of the state's TV markets.

"This promises to be a high point in what could be an historic election,'' said David Armstrong, chairman of the non-partisan Leadership Florida and president of Broward College.

Leadership Florida President Wendy Abberger said the groups wanted to make the announcement early, as other potential sponsors — such as television stations or universities — also might look at hosting debates.

Barring something unexpected, it appears all but certain that Gov. Rick Scott will be the Republican candidate. But the Democratic field remains unsettled, as former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has not announced whether he will run as a Democrat. The only prominent Democrat who has declared for the race is former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich of Weston.

The debate, which could be held at a college or university, likely will be limited to the Republican and Democratic candidates. To qualify, candidates will have to receive at least 15 percent support in a poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.