Mason-Dixon poll used to determine the candidates who meet the criteria to
participate in the Oct. 24, 2018 gubernatorial debate.

Criteria for Participation in the Decision 2018 Senatorial and Gubernatorial Debates

Statement of Purpose

Leadership Florida Statewide Community Foundation, Inc. (Leadership Florida®) and Florida Press Association (together, the “Debate Partners”) are producing televised debates among selected 2018  Florida candidates in the General Election race for the United States Senate and for Florida’s Governor (“Debates”). The participation criteria for the Debates are explained below.

Leadership Florida Statewide Community Foundation, Inc. is a private, non-profit, nonpartisan, Florida membership organization created for the purpose of educating Florida’s leaders about the issues critical to the state.

Florida Press Association is a private, non-profit, nonpartisan membership organization comprised of Florida daily and weekly newspapers.

The Debate Partners are private corporate entities and are not state actors, agents or agencies. The Debates will be financed by private funding provided by the Debate Partners and debate sponsors.

The goal of the Debates is to offer the citizens of Florida an opportunity, in a broad-ranging debate format, to learn about, compare, and carefully consider candidates with a threshold level of support from whom Florida voters will elect a United States Senator and their Governor.  In order to achieve this goal, the Debate Partners adopt these Candidate Eligibility Criteria (“Criteria”) for identifying those candidates who will be allowed to participate in the Debate/s. It is the intent of the Debate Partners that the Criteria comply with all applicable legal requirements and that candidate participation in the Debates will be based upon the application of pre-established, objective criteria as expressed in the Criteria.

2018 Florida Debates

The televised general election Debates will occur in October 2018 at Broward College in Davie, Florida.  Broward College is the Debate Site Host.  Broward College has not played any role in developing these Criteria and will not play any role in eligibility determinations or in the direction and production of the Debates.

Candidate Selection Criteria

  1. To qualify to be invited to participate in the Debates, a candidate must satisfy the following criteria:
    1. The candidate must satisfy all of the eligibility requirements of the governing body responsible for the elections.
    2. The candidate must be legally qualified for and registered to participate as a candidate in the 2018 State of Florida United States Senator general election and in the 2018 State of Florida Gubernatorial general election.
    3. A candidate must meet the polling thresholds in these rules.
    4. A qualifying candidate must have at least 12.5% support (including the full benefit of a 3.5% +/- margin of error based on a sample size of 815 among all likely voters who will participate in the general election as determined by a poll conducted by a credible and reputable independent poll as to be determined exclusively by the Debate Partners (see 1.F.). Such poll shall be conducted, completed and in the possession of the Debate Partners between September 1, 2018 and September 30, 2018.By way of example, if a poll shows a candidate receiving 10% support among all registered voters, and the poll’s margin of error is 3.5%, the candidate’s support, including the full benefit of the margin of error, is 13.5%. If such a candidate meets the other Criteria set forth in these Rules, that candidate would qualify to be invited to participate in the Debates. The Debate Partners reserve the right, in their sole discretion, to broaden or change the Criteria if the accepted poll indicates that there are more than 35% undecided voters without regard to margin of error.
    5. The candidate and his/her campaign representatives must agree in writing, on behalf of the candidate and the campaign, to abide by all rules concerning the conduct of the debate.
    6. For purposes of these rules, the term “independent poll” means a poll that is not commissioned or performed by or on behalf of a candidate or the supporter of a candidate or by or on behalf of a political party.  The Debate Partners reserve the sole and absolute discretion to determine whether a poll is reputable and independent and will be used to determine eligibility.  In making such determination, the Debate Partners will consider, without limitation, factors such as the pollster’s experience, whether the pollster is a member of any polling or political consultant professional organizations, whether and the extent to which the pollster has been hired by media or other nonpartisan organizations to do national, statewide or congressional district polling with published results.
  2. The deadline to meet the requirements of these Rules for participation in the Debates is October 1, 2018.  The Debate Partners will advise qualifying candidates of their eligibility to participate in the Debates shortly thereafter.
  3. The Debate Partners will not accept any other polling results, specifically including but not limited to any polling results paid for or otherwise obtained, directly or indirectly, by a candidate, a candidate’s campaign, or any supporter of the candidate.
  4. The Debate Partners or their designee may cancel, postpone, or reschedule one or both of these Debates in their sole discretion. The Debate Partners are not responsible or otherwise liable for any cost or expense of any candidate in the event the Debate Partners cancel, postpone, or reschedule one or both of these Debates.
  6. Special Note:  The foregoing Debate Participation Criteria are substantially similar to the criteria used by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association during their 2016 Senate Debate, and also previously in their 2014 Gubernatorial Debate, except for the percentage threshold (15% in 2014, and 12.5% for 2016 and for these Debates) and sampling margin of error (4% then and 3.5% now).  The 2014 participation criteria  were the subject of litigation in the case of Adrian Wyllie for Governor Campaign v. Leadership Florida, 2014 WL 5147758 (S.D. Fla. October 14, 2014) (Order Denying Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Injunction).  The Debate Partners believe that the participation criteria for this Debate are more favorable for candidates seeking to participate in this Debate than the criteria the Debate Partners used and successfully defended through litigation in 2014.  Any candidate who is not invited to participate in a Debate based on these criteria is hereby urged to carefully review the decision in the Wyllie case before initiating litigation against Leadership Florida, the Florida Press Association or the Debate Site Host.


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