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Mich. Gov. Hopefuls Agree To Debate

Michigan gubernatorial candidates Republican Rick Snyder and Democrat Virg Bernero agreed Wednesday after sitting down for coffee together that they would debate next month, their campaigns said.

Spokesmen for both candidates said the agreement is for one hourlong debate the evening of Oct. 10. It will take place at the Detroit-area public television station in Wixom and be sponsored by the Center for Michigan.

You'll be able to hear the debate live on WWJ Newsradio 950.

Commercial and public television stations around the state will also have the opportunity to show the debate live or on tape delay. It also will be available online on the Center for Michigan website.

Bernero originally had asked for eight debates, and has repeatedly criticized Snyder for avoiding any.

Bernero told WWJ on Wednesday that just one face-off is an insult.

"Not to me -- not to Virg Bernero. It's an insult to the voters of Michigan! They deserve to see us in several occasions, several forums, unscripted," he said.

Bernero accused Snyder of hiding in a "corporate cocoon."

"What is this guy afraid of? What is he trying to hide? If Rick Snyder can't stand up to me and to the questions of journalists around the state, how is he going to stand up to the problems, the challenges facing Michigan?" Bernero said.

Snyder has been leading Bernero in the polls.

Snyder had broken off debate negotiations more than a week ago after Bernero didn't immediately accept his offer of three specific debates. Days later, Bernero showed up at a Snyder campaign town hall event in Westland to present his opponent with a letter asking that the two sit down alone and work out an agreement.

Snyder invited him into the town hall meeting, and the two shared the stage answering the audience's questions. Both addressed the West Michigan Policy Forum in Grand Rapids last week, but appeared separately.

With his double-digit lead in the polls, Snyder has more to lose than gain from going one-on-one with the feisty Lansing mayor. But debates are traditional in Michigan gubernatorial contests, and the Ann Arbor businessman was taking some heat for not agreeing to any.

Both campaigns sounded conciliatory on Wednesday.

"This is going to be an important debate and it's going to give the voters a chance to hear and contrast and compare both candidates on the same stage at the same time answering the same questions,'' Snyder campaign spokesman Bill Nowling told the AP.  "We think it's going to a good, robust discussion about the issues that are affecting Michigan families and businesses.''

Added Bernero campaign spokesman Cullen Schwarz:  "Virg is disappointed that at this point there's not agreement on more debates. But it is good that there will be at least one debate so that Michiganders can hear the candidates discuss their plans, their record and their vision for Michigan.''

Moderators for the debate weren't named, but the Center for Michigan has suggested in the past using Nolan Finley of The Detroit News and either Stephen Henderson or Ron Dzwonkowski of the Detroit Free Press, the campaign spokesmen said Wednesday.

The format will be similar to Republican and Democratic debates the center put on during the primary election and will not include a studio audience.

The last governor's race in which there were no debates was in 1998, when two-term Republican Gov. John Engler refused to debate Democrat Geoffrey Fieger after the Southfield trial attorney made disparaging comments about Engler and his family. But even then, Engler agreed to a debate before the Detroit Economic Club. Fieger declined to appear.

(Copyright 2010 WWJ Radio.  All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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