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Ralph Begleiter moderated the 2020 Delaware Debates. The coronavirus
(COVID-19) pandemic forced changes in the format, with Begleiter
operating from a campus studio while
candidates appeared on camera in their home locations.
for governor of Delaware and for the states single seat in the U.S.
House of Representatives answered questions and discussed issues in
Delaware Debates 2020, a virtual event hosted by the University of
Delawares Center for Political Communication (CPC) and Delaware Public Media.
The hour-long debates were held on consecutive nights, beginning on
Tuesday, Oct. 13, when the major-party candidates for governor,
incumbent Democrat John C. Carney Jr. and Republican challenger Julianne
E. Murray, met.
On Wednesday, Oct. 14, the major-party candidates for the U.S. House
of Representatives faced off, with incumbent Lisa Blunt Rochester, a
Democrat, debating Republican Lee Murphy.
No session in the U.S. Senate race was held this year, as incumbent
Democrat Christopher A. Coons said he was unable to participate in a UD
debate with his Republican challenger, Lauren Witzke.
The debates, which have been a tradition every election year since
2010, are normally held on the UD campus before a large audience and
broadcast live. This year, the event instead was livestreamed with
each candidate on camera in their home location and no in-person
audience to follow health and safety precautions during the current
coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
The first night of the 2020 Delaware Debates on Oct. 13 featured the governor's race, with incumbent
Democrat John C. Carney Jr. and Republican challenger Julianne E.
Murray meeting virtually. Ralph Begleiter moderated the debate from
University Media Services' campus studio.
Moderator Ralph Begleiter, the retired founding director of the
CPC and a former CNN journalist, posed questions from a studio on
campus, where he and the production staff followed careful COVID
prevention guidelines. In addition to Begleiters questions, the
candidates also fielded questions from Delaware Public Media reporter
Sophia Schmidt and from several UD students and members of the public,
who appeared via video.
Each debate was notable for its adherence to strict time limits for
each candidates answers and closing statements and for the
participants civility, with no interruptions or name-calling.
In the gubernatorial debate, the initial round of questions and
answers centered on the states response to the coronavirus pandemic,
particularly in its disproportionate impact on communities of color and
on workers in the food processing industry. The candidates were also
asked for their plans for reviving the states economy and making up for
the revenue lost because of the pandemic.
On Oct. 14, candidates for Delawares seat in the U.S. House of Representatives faced off, with incumbent
Lisa Blunt Rochester, a Democrat, debating Republican Lee Murphy.
Other topics focused on funding for schools, especially those with
many low-income and at-risk students, and on violence in the city of
Wilmington, homelessness, mail-in voting, racial justice and policing,
measures to address climate change, property tax reassessments, the
Electoral College and the legalization of marijuana.
In their closing statements, Carney spoke of plans to bring people
together to address the critical needs of the states health and
economic recovery and to emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.
Murray argued that career politicians in a state thats increasingly
dominated by one party are out of touch with the concerns of most
Delawareans, who she said have lost many of their freedoms in recent
The U.S. House debate covered many of the same issues related to
the pandemic, the economy, racial justice and climate change, with the
questions focusing on the role of the federal government in addressing
these and other challenges.
Specific questions included the Trump administrations response to
the pandemic, the future of the Affordable Care Act and what if anything
might replace it if the Supreme Court strikes it down, the rising
federal budget deficit, building in areas vulnerable to floods and other
disasters, the right to abortion under Roe v. Wade, social medias
accountability for posted content, incentives for renewable energy, and
cybersecurity, especially during elections.
In the candidates answers and their closing statements, Blunt
Rochester spoke often of the important role the federal government can
and should play in addressing many of todays challenges, while Murphy
argued that in many cases, the issues were best addressed by local
officials or state governments.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Evan Krape and Kathy F. Atkinson
Published Oct. 15, 2020