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Perry, White Invited to Public Debate

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gov. Rick Perry and former Houston mayor Bill White.

    The state's largest daily newspapers and public television station KLRU are inviting Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White to participate in a debate Oct. 19.

    The Austin American-Statesman reported that invitation letters were being delivered to both gubernatorial candidates on Friday and that the event would take place even if only one candidate shows up.

    White has been pressing for a debate, but Perry has said he won't debate until White releases income tax returns dating to his time as deputy energy secretary in the mid-1990s. White has released income taxes from 2004 to 2009, when he was mayor of Houston.

    The candidates maintained those stances Friday after receiving the invitation letters.

    "Yes, Bill is going to accept the opportunity," said White's spokeswoman, Katy Bacon.

    Perry spokesman Mark Miner said Perry will only debate if White releases more tax returns.

    "The governor is ready for a debate, and if Bill White wants to come clean and release his tax returns we'll be there," Miner said. "It's a very simple solution."

    The American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News are working with KLRU to hold the evening event at the television station's studio on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

    "If only one candidate shows up for the debate, we will discuss issues with him alone for the entire hour," says the letter, which is signed by the editors of the five newspapers and Bill Stotesbery, the CEO of KLRU.

    The sponsors plan to make the debate available to television outlets across the state. Federal regulations limit how much air time a broadcast station can give a particular candidate, which means a one-candidate appearance might not be televised.

    "It could affect our broadcast plans, but we will be working over the next couple of weeks to define that more clearly," Stotesbery said.

    Newspapers will stream the event on their websites.

    Debate questions will come from a panel of four newspaper representatives.

    American-Statesman Editor Fred Zipp said the sponsors did not consult the candidates before setting a debate date because "to do otherwise left the candidates too much room to duck the question, to undermine the possibility of a debate by inaction."

    The sponsors will invite all gubernatorial candidates who have at least 10 percent support in a September poll the newspapers are conducting, meaning minor-party candidates are not likely to participate in the debate.