PORTLAND – There’s a bit of a debate over a debate among some Republican gubernatorial candidates.

WMTW-TV hosted a live debate for Republicans on Tuesday night at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall. But the debate was bedeviled by audio problems. Some candidates couldn’t be heard.

Bill Becker, candidate Matt Jacobson’s campaign manager, said it was a “major breakdown in technology.”

“The moderator or speakers would cut in and out,” Becker said. “You could tell in the control room that all hell was breaking loose.”

Candidate Paul LePage was particularly affected by the problems, Becker said. The first half of his opening remarks was in English and the second half was in French, Becker said, but only the French half was broadcast.

WMTW offered Wednesday to tape a second debate on Sunday, to air Monday night, as a way to address the situation. Becker said most of the campaigns were in favor, but Les Otten’s campaign balked.

WMTW dropped its attempt at a makeup debate Friday, Becker said.

“It’s unfortunate, especially in this election, with the number of undecided voters,” he said. “I’m really confused as to why the Otten campaign was doing that. It seems they were afraid to have that debate.”

Otten’s campaign manager, Edie Smith, brushed aside that suggestion.

“Of course we’re not scared of getting our message out,” Smith said. “We’ve been doing it since (last) June.”

Smith said there were technical difficulties with the debate, but they weren’t as bad as they’re being described.

“We thought all the candidates were able to get their messages out,” Smith said.

Smith noted that the primary is Tuesday and “the schedule is crazy between now and Tuesday.”

As the campaigns talked about a makeup debate, Smith said, most were having circular conversations, not really committing.

WMTW’s station manager couldn’t be reached for comment. According to a programming notice on its website, the station will instead air one-on-one interviews with Republican and Democratic candidates on weekend broadcasts of “News 8 This Morning.”

 

Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

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