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Star Tribune
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new group trying to increase national interest in presidential debates hopes to hold a presidential debate on Oct. 11 at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

The Citizens' Debate Commission on Monday proposed to hold five presidential debates and one vice presidential debate before the November election.

The debates would differ from those run by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which currently organizes presidential debates, because they would include candidate-to-candidate questioning, allow follow-up questions and be more accessible to third-party candidates.

Former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who endorsed the debates at a news conference, said that widening participation would force the major-party nominees to discuss more issues. Even if the candidates agree on an issue, such as amnesty for illegal aliens in the United States, he said, they would have to explain their positions to Americans.

"It's time to get Washington insiders out of the debate business," Buchanan said.

President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, his presumed Democratic challenger, have not agreed to participate in the alternative debates, said George Farah, executive director of Open Debates, a group that helped form the Citizens' Debate Commission. If neither accepts an invitation, he said, the debates would be canceled.

"The only way to get [the networks] to cover these debates is if there is one major-party candidate," Farah said.

The other debates are proposed for colleges or universities in Columbus, Ohio; Swarthmore, Pa.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Salem, Ore., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.