Debate to go on, with or without Lamont

WFSB and Connecticut Public Broadcasting are going ahead with plans for a Democratic gubernatorial debate on Aug. 3 – with or without Ned Lamont.

All three Republican candidates have accepted an invitation to debate Aug. 4 at WFSB’s studios in Rocky Hill, but Dan Malloy is the only Democrat willing to appear on the 3rd.

“We’re apparently going to do it with or without Lamont,” Dennis House, the WFSB anchorman, said Tuesday night.

“I really, really hope he takes part,” said John Dankosky, the news director of WNPR, the radio affiliate of Connecticut Public Broadcasting.

WFSB has informed Lamont they will keep two lecterns on their set until 12:55 p.m. on the day of the debate, House said. After that, they will reconfigure the studio for a solo appearance by Malloy. House and Dankosky will pose questions.

The decision by WFSB and Connecticut Public Broadcasting keeps alive an awkward episode for Lamont, who had a 9-percentage point lead last week in a Quinnipiac University poll of likely Democratic primary voters.

Dankosky said that WNPR and WFSB are committed to offer voters an opportunity to hear from the candidates, and it is inappropriate to let one candidate force a cancellation.

“I think it’s important for both us and ‘FSB to offer this,” Dankosky said.

“Our feeling is it’s unfair to viewers to just give them the Republicans,” House said.

On Aug. 3 and 4, the debates will be simulcast live at 3 p.m. on WFSB, Channel 3 and WNPR radio, then rebroadcast at 8 p.m. on CPTV and WNPR. WFSB also will replay the debates at 7 p.m. on its digital cable channel, Eyewitness News Now.

On WFSB’s “Face the State,” the station’s Sunday interview show, Lamont said he would consider participating, but his staff said after the show that the campaign’s decision was final.

Lamont debated Malloy on NBC30 a month ago, but he has refused additional televised debates closer to the primary.

“We hope Ned will change his mind,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, a media adviser to Malloy. “Democrats have a real choice to make. The best way to make that choice is to see the candidates side by side.”

Justine Sessions, the communication director for Lamont, did not return a phone seeking comment Tuesday night. Instead, she emailed a one-line jab at Malloy’s disputed claims about job creation during his 14 years as mayor of Stamford:

“Dan may need the full hour to explain how 5,000 jobs created minus 13,000 jobs lost equals 5,000 jobs created.”

Lamont’s non-participation prompted the cancellation of a televised debate scheduled for July 27 at the Garde Arts Center in New London. Republicans Tom Foley, Michael C. Fedele and Oz Griebel will debate at the Garde on July 28. It will be televised on a sister station of WTNH, Channel 8.

Lamont has agreed to appear Friday at 9 a.m. on “Where We LIve,” Dankosky’s one-hour daily interview show on WNPR.