Monday, May 12, 2003
South Carolina II http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/local/5844911.htm
The South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee would sponsor the event. BIPEC sent invitations to the candidates last week but doesn't know yet who will commit to attending while their schedules are jammed with events leading up to the primaries.
The debate would be two days after the New Hampshire primary and five days before presidential selection events in South Carolina and several other states.
On top of that, the groups involved aren't the most hospitable to Democrats, said former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, who organized the May 3 presidential debate in Columbia.
"I think it will be a debate that nobody comes to," Harpootlian said of the Fox event. "BIPEC is a known Republican front organization, and the debate will be held by a right-wing network."
Tom DeLoach, BIPEC's chief executive officer, denied his group is affiliated with the GOP. "We're a nonpartisan education association," he said.
Marty Ryan, Fox News' political coverage executive producer, also disagreed with Harpootlian's assessment. "I don't buy the premise on either front," he said.
BIPEC has run two Republican debates, DeLoach said, but state and national Democratic Party issues prevented a 2000 Democratic presidential debate.
Campaign officials for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said they had received invitations but had not decided whether to participate. Other campaigns contacted did not immediately respond.
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