Debate Between Republican Governor Ricketts, Democratic Challenger Krist Indefinitely Postponed

WAYNE – The Wayne Area Economic Development Gubernatorial Debate was scheduled for late next week, but due to terms not being reached the event has been indefinitely postponed.

The proposed debate was set for Friday, September 21 on the campus of Wayne State College to feature incumbent Republican Governor Pete Ricketts and his challenger, Democratic State Senator Bob Krist. The event was to be sponsored by Wayne Area Economic Development (WAED) and would have been presented by Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET).

WAED Executive Director, Luke Virgil released the following statement after receiving correspondence from both campaigns that indicated negotiations for the proposed debate had reached an impasse:

“Although we welcomed the opportunity to sponsor the proposed Gubernatorial Debate, negotiations reached an impasse,” said Luke Virgil, Executive Director at WAED. “We greatly appreciate the time and resources that were expended by both candidates, NET, and WSC, as we explored the possibility of a debate in Wayne.”


According to a release from the Office of Governor Ricketts earlier this week, Pete Ricketts for Governor campaign counsel Mark Fahleson sent five emails since Friday, September 7 to Dan Parsons, communications director of Kirst for Nebraska, requesting a meeting. On Monday, Mr. Fahleson sent an email requesting a response by midnight highlighting eight items:

Moderator; media partners; method for determining who goes first, last; format – opening, closing, answer length, rebuttal; staging – audio, visual; audience tickets; signage and green rooms.

As of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, having not responded to Mr. Fahleson’s message and all other attempts to arrange a meeting, it was stated, “the Kirst campaign has canceled the Wayne debate.”


Monday afternoon, Mr. Fahleson issued the following statement regarding the WAED Gubernatorial Debate:

“The Krist campaign has thus far resisted meeting to discuss even basic elements of debate format, including the moderator, media partners, the order of opening and closing statements, and even the length of answers to questions. We have never opposed NET’s participation alongside the debate’s original media partners, News Channel Nebraska and the Norfolk Daily News, and original moderator, the Norfolk Daily News’ Kent Warneke. These are well-respected, objective, and impartial journalistic entities, and Bob Krist’s objection to them is bizarre.

“Krist has worked to undermine the Wayne debate from the beginning, first with his refusal to participate and now with ‘my way or the highway’ ultimatums and vetoes of respected media partners. Should this obstinate stonewalling continue, there will be no debate. With the proposed date now less than two weeks from today, the time for Bob Krist’s petty games is over.”


Tuesday afternoon, the Krist Campaign also reacted.  

“The actions of Gov. Ricketts campaign since the Wayne Area Chamber of Commerce secured Nebraska Educational Television (NET) as a debate partner are the actions of a campaign who had no intention of following through with this debate,” said Dan Parsons, communications director, Krist for Governor.

“The Krist campaign agreed to the debate with NET as a sponsor and has not changed that position. Sen. Krist was prepared to and is still willing to debate the governor at Wayne State College with statewide news coverage from NET. Sen. Krist has in no way changed his plan or willingness to participate in the debate at Wayne,” Parsons said.

“Further, C-SPAN also contacted us today with interest in broadcasting the debate nationwide, and this would have been not only a great opportunity for the people of Wayne and the people of Nebraska to learn more about the candidates but for people across the country to learn about Nebraska.” Parsons said.

“This last-minute stunt shows that the Ricketts campaign never truly wanted more than one debate, and once they found out the debate was going to be broadcast statewide, and possibly nationwide, they decided to walk away rather than face the people of Nebraska.”

“I am deeply disappointed that Gov. Ricketts has decided to not show up at Wayne State College. And it’s appalling they are attacking NET, the long-standing respected public broadcasting station. The fact is, Pete Ricketts participated in a NET moderated debate when he ran for governor four years ago. What has changed, governor,” Krist said.