Four candidates for governor have confirmed that they’ll debate this Friday in Coeur d’Alene – GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff, Libertarian candidate John Bujak and independent candidate “Pro-Life.” Jimmy McAndrew of the Coeur Group, which is organizing the noon Friday debate at the Coeur d’Alene Library’s downstairs community room, said the group invited all the candidates on the ballot; all but two, independent Jill Humble and Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey, accepted.
“So we’ve got four,” he said. “Humble declined, I just don’t think she could make it work. We never heard back from Pankey.”
The community room at the library – the same place where the Coeur d’Alene City Council meets – has seating for 160 people to watch the debate, which also will air live on CDA-TV Channel 19, the local cable channel in Coeur d’Alene that airs City Council meetings. After the debate, re-runs are planned and the program will be posted to the channel’s website. “There’s a lot of hours going into prep for this. Our goal is to come up with questions that don’t elicit canned responses,” McAndrew said. He added, “Hopefully, people will come out of there surprised at something or learn something.”
The debate will start at noon, and run for between an hour and 90 minutes. “The library opens at 10, so people are free to stake out their seats by 10 a.m. that morning,” McAndrew said. Organizers are hoping for a big turnout. “We’d love to have it packed,” he said. “It sounds like there’s a fair amount of interest, so I would tell people there’s no harm in getting there a little bit early.”
This will be the first debate in the governor’s race to include Otter; Balukoff and Bujak debated last week in Twin Falls, but Otter didn’t attend.