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…

Huntsville Governors Forum Website

The Madison County Young Republicans and Right On Huntsville are hosting the Huntsville Governors Forum on Tuesday March 2, 2010 at the Alabama Space and Rocket Center’s Davidson Center. 

The forum is open to the public and starts promptly at 6:15PM – that’s when the Butler High School Junior Air Force ROTC Color Guard opens the event with the presentation of the colors.  If you know their Instructor, then you know that this event -shall- start on time.

There will be a private Reception with the Gubernatorial candidates starting  at 5:00PM (tickets are $50 each, available online).

I’m announcing a milestone of sorts – the Huntsville Governors Forum website is UP!  Check it out!  The links work!  The reception ticket ordering system works!

We are developing a questionnaire for the candidates - their responses will be featured at the HGF website.  There will be nine questions – plus the softball.  If you have a question that you’d us to consider, or if you’d like to chime in on which questions we should ask, please comment.  Note that a Free the Hops question will (likely) be asked during the Forum itself.  Also note that a question on tapping into the Alabama Trust Fund will (likely) be asked during the Forum.  Here’s a draft list of questions:

1.  Do you support Initiative and Referendum?
2.  Do you support the re-authorization of Forever Wild?
3.  What is your position on gambling?  Do you support dog-tracks, lottery, casinos, bingo, making a compact with the Creeks?
4.  Alabama is currently coping with budget shortfalls that have led to pro-ration and forced the state to use the “rainy day fund”.  What solution would you pursue as Governor? If spending cuts or tax increases are involved please provide specifics.
5.  What measures would you support to increase transparency and accountability in our state government?
6.  Do you support eliminating the grocery sales tax? If so, how do you propose to replace the lost revenue?
7.  What is your position on Constitutional Reform? Would you support a Constitutional Convention?
8.  What role should the state play in economic development?
9.  What ideas do you support for conserving the natural (environmental) and cultural heritage of Alabama?
10. What ideas do you have for roads and bridges – what is your transportation plan and how will you fund it?
11. What economic development incentives or initiatives do you propose and how will you pay for it?
12.  What ideas do you propose for improving health care?
13.  How often should property valuations for property taxes be conducted?
14.  Is PACT a promise and if so, how will you fund it?  Should the program be continued?
15. What ideas do you propose for improving education?
16.  What do you think about the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution?
17.  How are you going to break the AEA’s hold on State government?
18.  How do you plan to allocate gas tax revenues?
19.  How much do you love guns and the Second Amendment?
20.  Do you support limiting the use of Eminent Domain?  What is your definition of “public use”?
21.  What water policy ideas do you support?
22. What ideas do you propose for improving trade and technical education?
23.  Do you support a State-wide system of building regulations and inspections?
24. What are your views on marriage?
25.  How will you improve public safety?

The more the merrier

But the fewer the better fare.

John Heywood, Proverbs, 1546.

There are seven candidates in the Republican Primary for Governor.

The Huntsville Governor’s Forum (March 2, 2010) starts at 6PM and ends at 8PM.  That’s about 17 minutes per candidate, not counting the Pledge of Allegiance; Invocation; recognition of Young Republicans and Right On; introduction of panelists and panelist questions; &c.

A draft schedule might look like this:

- Pledge of Allegiance (>1 min), Invocation (1 min – we will remember to bring our own preacher), and Recognition of MCYR and Right On (3 min) = 5 minutes
- Each candidate makes 3 minute speech (x7) = 21 minutes
- Panelist 1 Introduction and Question (2 minutes) plus seven 2 minute responses = 16 minutes
- Panelist 2 = 16 minutes
- Panelist 3 = 16 minutes
- Round robin – each candidate asks one other candidate a question (7 questions at 1 min each plus 7 responses at 2 min each plus 30 second rebuttal) = 25 minutes
- Closing = 3 minutes

No, the draft doesn’t equal 120 minutes, but honestly it was drafted for a 6:15 PM start (105 minutes).  It’s still a tight schedule.  I may not get in my Free the Hops question, after all.

We may not even get in a question (suggested by a local honcho) about economic development: why did the State give Thyssen-Kruppe a billion dollars but not fund BRAC, especially since the average TK job pays like $40K and the average BRAC job pays like $70K?  What are you gonna do about it?

Keep in mind that this is still a work in progress and that comments (especially from candidates / consultants) are welcome.  However, the schedule will be set fairly soon.

Here are some details about the Huntsville Governor’s Forum.  The Governor’s Forum will be held on Tuesday March 2, 2010 at the Space and Rocket Center’s Davidson Center.  All seven GOP candidates have said they will attend.  

A private reception will precede the Governor’s Forum.  The MCYR and Right On will cover the event expenses from $50 per person contributions to attend the reception.  The contribution also includes reserved seating at the Forum.

MCYR and Right On are also covering expenses from $400 sponsors.  Sponsors receive two tickets to the reception.  Sponsors also receive recognition on invitations and programs, plus big screen promotions during the reception and after-forum meet and greet.

After the Forum, I’m guessing that the candidates will hang out and talk politics for awhile…  Just about every other GOP candidate in the area will show up to talk politics too.  I’m also guessing that we will have a good crowd – IIRC the Center has about a 1400 person capacity.