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JU’s Home for Public Policy to Host Key Debates

The Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute (Institute) and WJXT Channel 4 announced last week a televised debate and town hall in the Florida gubernatorial primary races, to be co-hosted at Jacksonville University (JU) in early August.

“The Florida Governor’s race is one of the most important in the nation, and Jacksonville University is very pleased to partner with WJXT Channel 4 to host this debate and town hall,” said Institute Director Rick Mullaney. Added WJXT General Manager Bob Ellis, “Preparing our viewers on how each candidate views the important issues to our local community is a commitment we take very seriously.”

“The Florida Governor’s race is one of the most important in the nation, and Jacksonville University is very pleased to partner with WJXT Channel 4.”

On Wednesday, August 8, Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam will participate in a televised Republican gubernatorial primary debate, one of only two debates the candidates plan to hold prior to primary voting, and their final debate before the primary election.

The Republican primary debate will be followed by a televised town hall on Thursday, August 9, in the Florida democratic gubernatorial primary, with candidates Andrew Gillum, Mayor of Tallahassee; Gwen Graham, former Congresswoman for Florida’s Second Congressional District; Chris King, Winter Park businessman; and Philip Levine, former Mayor of Miami Beach. Jeff Greene, who recently entered the race, has also been invited.

The back to back events will be held in JU’s Terry Concert Hall, where voters will have an opportunity to hear directly from candidates on a variety of important issues facing the state of Florida.

The Institute and WJXT have co-hosted seven televised debates in local, state, and federal elections since 2015, in addition to hosting a televised town hall on violence in schools this past March. WJXT Anchor Kent Justice has moderated previously and will serve as moderator for both the upcoming Democratic candidate town hall and Republican debate.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office 2015 Debate

In addition, the Institute and WJXT Channel 4 have extended invitations to Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Florida Governor Rick Scott for a televised debate in the Florida U.S. Senate race, to be hosted in October at JU.

The Institute seeks to shape the future of local, state, and national public policy by preparing a ready generation of leaders and policy experts, and by providing a neutral gathering place for policy discussion, education, and collaboration. The Institute offers the only Master in Public Policy (MPP) degree in the state of Florida, a 48-credit, two-year interdisciplinary program that seeks to prepare future leaders for private, public, and non-profit sectors. MPP students graduate with substantive knowledge, analytic skills, and leadership know-how through a policy-relevant internship experience, important networks and relationships, and a commitment to public service.

“We adopted some of the best practices from across the country, adding it to our program. The result has been the first Public Policy Institute of its kind in our state and an extraordinary first few years,” says Mullaney.

In addition to its unique MPP track—a very different experience than the typical MPA—and several dual degrees, the Institute also serves as a hub for policy forums, polling, guest lectures, and rolling commentary through social media, local television, and radio, and through the “Policy Matters” radio series hosted by the Institute and aired quarterly on NPR member station WJCT.

Statewide media website Florida Politics has repeatedly covered the Institute’s televised debates. “It is worth noting that, at least in terms of local and regional races, debates held at Jacksonville University have shifted electoral narratives,” Florida Politics stated.

“It is worth noting that, at least in terms of local and regional races, debates held at Jacksonville University have shifted electoral narratives.”

Seven moderated live debates hosted in less than three years is something that had not been attempted in the University’s 80-plus years. Other organizations and elected officials who have sought the availability of the Institute include Governor Rick Scott utilizing JU as a community gathering point for his 2013 health care initiative; Curry’s transition team headquartering at JU in 2015; the City of Jacksonville hosting community conversations regarding expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance; and 2016 Libertarian Vice Presidential Candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld hosting a town hall during his campaign.

Through the Institute, students have direct access to policymakers, civic leaders, visionaries, elected officials and various local and state candidates. The list of special speakers and VIP guests since the Institute’s inception includes Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, State Attorney General Pam Bondi, 2012 Republican Presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nancy Soderberg, former U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Patrick Murphy, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James Smith, and many other distinguished leaders.

For more information about the Institute, visit https://www.ju.edu/publicpolicy/, or email the Institute at ppi@ju.edu.  For more information on the debate and town hall, contact Amy Lane at (904) 256-7452 or alane4@ju.edu.