Republican Debate Moves From U. Iowa To Capital

This story was written by Ashton Shurson, The Daily Iowan
The Fox News-produced Republican debate originally scheduled for Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa has been moved to Des Moines, Iowa, because of logistic concerns.

Hosting the debate in the capital allows for easier access for candidates and travelers, as well as a better site to set up the debate, said Charles Swanson, the Hancher executive director.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "I was so excited. We love to see Hancher used for all sorts of things."

The debate is still scheduled for the original date of Dec. 4, he said, and it will likely be held at Hy-Vee Hall -- but nothing has been officially confirmed.

After Fox News sponsored a debate in Florida last week at a convention center, station officials felt it was easier to set up in an open space as opposed to a Hancher-like stage and venue, Swanson said.

In addition, he said, Fox News wanted to get as many candidates as possible, and the Des Moines location would help bring more to the debate.

Greg Baker, the chairman of the UI College Republicans, said he believed the debate was moved because the university was having complications with Fox News on whether to call the debate a political event and if Fox News should be labeled as a political organization.

"It was basically a done deal," said Baker, whose organization was supposed to sponsor the event. "It's a shocker to myself and Chuck."

Swanson said that this was in the works for a few weeks after Fox News was at Hancher, but Fox officials "really liked the space." After the Oct. 21 debate in Florida, he said, they changed their minds. Des Moines was originally the second option behind Iowa City, Baker said.

Both Baker and Swanson received their information from the Iowa Republican Party, which wasn't available for comment Wednesday.

The two men also said they were disappointed at losing the national media attention the debate would have brought to Hancher and the UI.

Half of the attendees were supposed to be students, and Baker said it is disheartening that fewer of them will be able to attend the event.

Although the parties involved are upset with the decision, Swanson is trying to stay positive.

"It would have been a great opportunity from so many different angles, but there are many things down the road," he said.
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE