LINCOLN, NE – Sen. Bob Krist said today that he is disappointed that Gov. Ricketts is now backing away from an agreed upon debate on September 21 at Wayne State College.
According to the Krist campaign, although the Ricketts campaign announced weeks ago that they agreed to the Wayne debate, they are now backing away after the Wayne Area Economic Development (WAED) notified both campaigns that they asked the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) to produce, moderate and broadcast the event across their statewide network.
“I am deeply disappointed that Gov. Ricketts is now backing away from our agreed upon debate in Wayne. And it’s appalling they are attacking NET, the long-standing respected public broadcasting station. The fact is, Pete Ricketts participated in a NET moderated debate when he ran for governor four years ago. What has changed, governor,” Krist said.
On August 31, Luke Virgil, Executive Director of WAED, announced to both campaigns that they had secured NET to conduct the debate. Mr. Vigil indicated that their sponsorship of the proposed debate “is predicated on fairness for and impartiality towards both campaigns. Wayne Area Economic Development's primary purpose in hosting/sponsoring a gubernatorial debate has been (and will remain) to expose a large majority of Nebraskans to both candidates and to create a well-informed electorate.”
Then on Friday, Ricketts attorney Mark Fahleson objected to NET moderating the debate.
Mark Fahleson email, September 7: “While I understand the Krist campaign’s desire to include NET as a media partner, unfortunately I don’t share that same confidence in NET, certainly not to the extent that NET should be the exclusive media representative, serve as a moderator or dictate the terms of the debate. As you may know, NET receives over $10 million/year in funding from the state and, thus, cannot be considered a disinterested party.”
“After a mediocre performance at our first debate, the governor is now looking for excuses not to debate again. If anything it’s the media outlet they want involved who is biased,” Krist said.
Prior to the organizer naming NET, the Ricketts campaign wanted News Channel Nebraska to be the media partner, the news outlet owned by former Republican State Senator and Ricketts supporter Mike Flood.
In the June 29, 2017, Omaha World-Herald, Mike Flood said: “Pete Ricketts is a good man, and he’ll be re-elected in 2018,” Flood said. “I look forward to remaining active in my party and helping to elect Republicans.”
As of today, less than two weeks prior to the scheduled debate on September 21, representatives from NET and Wayne Economic Development, said they have yet to secure the governor’s agreement to participate in the debate.