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Day announces series of debates in state Senate races

The Day, in cooperation with the Garde Arts Center, will in October livestream from the stage of the temporarily closed Garde movie palace a series of debates on theday.com featuring candidates for local state Senate seats.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no live audience. The continuing health threat is the reason The Day is not offering the debates at schools and other venues in our local communities, as it traditionally has.

Nonetheless, these livestreamed debates will give voters the opportunity to hear the candidates confront the issues and each other in a live format. The four districts collectively cover every town in The Day’s primary readership area and these races could determine the control of the state Senate. The videos of the hourlong debates will remain available on our website during the election season.

The debates will begin at 7 p.m.

The first debate will take place Oct. 8 and involve the 19th District candidates, incumbent Democratic Sen. Cathy Osten and her Republican opponent Steve Weir. The district consists of the towns of Columbia, Franklin, Hebron, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Marlborough, Montville, Norwich and Sprague.

After a week off, the debate series resumes on Oct. 20 for the candidates in the 20th District, incumbent Republican Sen. Paul Formica and his Democratic opponent Martha Marx. The towns in the district are Bozrah, East Lyme, New London, Old Lyme, Salem, Waterford and portions of Montville and Old Saybrook.

The following night, Oct. 21, will feature the candidates in the 18th District, incumbent Republican Sen. Heather Somers and her Democratic opponent Bob Statchen. The district consists of the towns of Griswold, Groton, North Stonington, Plainfield, Preston, Sterling, Stonington and Voluntown.

The fourth and final debate in the series will take place Oct. 22 featuring the 33rd District candidates, incumbent Democratic Sen. Norm Needleman and Republican challenger Brian Saunders. The district consists of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook.

A three-person panel, consisting of Day Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, 94.9 News Now radio talk show host and contributing Day columnist Lee Elci and Day Staff Writer and editorial board member Julia Bergman, will question the candidates. People watching the livestream event will have a chance to suggest questions, some of which our panelists can ask the candidates during the course of the debate. The League of Women Voters has agreed to provide timekeepers.

“I much appreciate the cooperation of the Garde and its executive director, Steve Sigel, in making these debates possible. And I also want to acknowledge the help of League of Women Voters,” said Choiniere, who annually organizes for The Day debates tied to our local elections. “Finally, I want to thank the candidates for making themselves available during this most unusual of campaign seasons.”

Protocols will be observed to provide social distancing, limit the number of people in attendance and assure the wearing of face masks, except during the debate by those directly participating.

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