WHNT Hudson Alpha Debate Summary

WHNT19 and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology hosted the “Race for the Governor” Debate on February 1, 2010.  The debate focused on education.  Patricia McCarter of The Huntsville Times wrote up a nice summary “Gubernatorial candidates quizzed on education issues at HudsonAlpha forum”:

The 90-minute forum, which was broadcast live on WHNT2 digital channel as well as al.com and whnt.com, was not interactive between the eight candidates.

Held at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, the forum was focused solely on educational issues. Partners in the venture were WHNT, HudsonAlpha, The Huntsville Times and ETV…

Candidates were given 15 seconds, 30 seconds or a minute to give their answers, depending on the question.

I watched the WHNT video, but with an eye more for the scheduling and flow of the questions in order to inform the scheduling for the upcoming Huntsville Governors Forum (March 2, 2010 at the Davidson Center – 6:15PM).  These are my rough notes, the times are video run times, enjoy.

8 candidates seated on stage, 4 panelists seated facing candidates.  Draw from hat for seating and first question, then rotate.

2:15 Emcee Steve Johnson from WHNT gives intro of Hudson Alpha, panelists, and rules.  Note that the questions are onscreen – nice touch.

2:30 Panelist 1 = Neil Lamb of Hudson Alpha.

Question1 – Alabama has a need for high tech workers, as Governor what is one thing you would do to make sure that our K-12 schools lay a strong foundation in these areas?   Thirty seconds to respond.

2:45 Bentley – Alabama Reading Initiative, need to expand Math and Science Initiative.

3:00 Sparks – get females interested in Math and Science.  We need funding.

3:40 James – expand ARI and AMSTI, need to address 40% drop out rate.

4:10 Byrne – expand AMSTI, one of biggest concerns is what we’re not doing in technical education.

4:45 Johnson – show students how science is relevant to life in the real world.

5:20 Davis – need to identify students with aptitude in math and science.

5:55 Potts – financial accountability, achieve grade level, discipline.

6:20 Ivey – only one running for Governor who was a teacher, get young people excited.

7:10 Bentley Bio

Panelist 2 = Maura Bailey of Grissom High School.

7:35 Question 2 – Teacher shortages due to proration. Given the inflexibility of the Alabama tax structure, do you advocate Constitutional reform in order to fund education?  Thirty seconds to respond.

8:00 Sparks – gambling.

8:30 James – the problem is that education trust fund money is getting siphoned off at the top.

9:05 Byrne – better budgeting and planning.

9:35 Johnson – do not support Constitutional reform, gambling.

10:05 Davis – 100% for Constitutional reform, Constitutional Convention.

10:35 Potts – against reframing the Constitution, fiscal accountability.

11:00 Ivey – prevent pro-ration by budgeting better, cut administrative overhead.

11:25 Bentley – 87% of education budget is earmarked, sees no push in the legislature for Constitutional Reform, need to budget more conservatively.

12:00 Byrne Bio

Panelist 3 = Kevin Wendt of the Huntsville Times
Panelist 4 = Lisa Washington of WHNT

Those 12 minutes took me like 45 minutes to write up, so I don’t think I’ll ever write up the rest.  If you’re interested in more details, read McCarter’s story linked above or watch the video at WHNT19.


For a thirty second answer from 8 candidates you need to budget about 5 minutes.  We’ll have six of the GOP candidates (just as with the WHNT debate, Roy Moore has a scheduling conflict).

The Huntsville Governors Forum will start promptly at 6:15PM on March 2 with the presentation of the colors by the Butler HS ROTC Color Guard.  We’ve budgeted about 15 minutes for the ceremony and introduction.

We’re planning on having 3 panelists ask substantive questions in their areas of interest, then providing about 2 minutes per candidate for answers (1 min question + (6 candidates x 2 min answer) = 13 min plus 2 min transitions = 15 minute budget).  Perhaps surprisingly,  2 minutes is a long time to spend on a topic (sometimes candidates only get to make a 2 minute speech).  Maybe we’ll get some detailed answers that will give us more insight into the candidates’ philosophy and plans.

We plan to have a Lightning Round of 10 questions (including a Free the Hops question).  All but one of the questions was chosen by committee from this list.  We’ve got about 30 minutes budgeted for this.  We won’t be posting a questionnaire.

Each candidate will have the opportunity to ask one other candidate a question in a Round Robin – 15 minutes.

The Forum is already a success in that the YRs and Right On are breaking even (venue costs covered by sponsors) – what we need next is a big turnout.  See you there…

3 thoughts on “WHNT Hudson Alpha Debate Summary

  1. Gosh, Roy Moore must have quite a busy schedule since he seems habitually too busy to sully himself by engaging his fellow candidates in a public forum. I know that in his mind he is way ahead, but I think his is a losing strategy.

  2. Thanks for the summary on the WHNT forum. My thought after watching part of it is that the format of that event is not the most helpful–the questions with 30 sec. or 1 min. responses with no follow-up. It ends up feeling like a joint press conference with all of the candidates. Of course, the sheer number of candidates make this format attractive.

    Hopefully the Republican debate in a few weeks will be more helpful with the longer response time as well as a more limited field. One other thought that might help is to allow the questioner to ask a follow-up or probe the candidates if they avoid parts of a question (a great example is the constitutional reform discussion in the WHNT debate where only 3 candidates acknowledge that part of the question.)

  3. WilliamC – planning a forum with a lot of candidates is a challenge. IMO the Round Robin will be the most interesting feature, because no one knows what’s going to happen when candidates get to ask each other questions.

    Even though we’re going to ask questions during the Lightning Round with 30 second answers, IMO the questions we’re asking are a little different from other forums (i.e., Free the Hops).