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Pantano demands Congressional debate be open to all media

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WILMINGTON (WWAY) - Ilario Pantano, Republican candidate for Congress in the 7th District, is strongly urging the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce to allow more media to participate in next week's debate between him and Congressman Mike McIntyre.

While the Chamber and Cape Fear Community College are the official hosts of the debate, the Chamber reached out only to WECT-TV to formulate guidelines, choose a moderator and decide who could broadcast it and when.

"Last time I checked your viewers were all red-blooded Americans and have a very deserved opportunity to watch and to learn and to make decisions about the electorate. We need as much information and public awareness about this very important election," said Pantano. "So we're excited for WWAY to be involved in this debate and we're hopeful that the chamber is going to agree."

McIntyre's campaign also requested Thursday that WWAY-TV be allowed to participate, but as of today, the Chamber is refusing.

Both WWAY-TV and WECT-TV are members of the Chamber. Connie Majure-Rhett, President and CEO of the Chamber, says she never called WWAY-TV because she assumed the station wouldn't be interested in participating. WWAY-TV General Manager Andy Combs contacted Majure-Rhett to discuss allowing the station to incorporate another anchor to co-host and air the debate. She said she had spoken with WECT-TV General Manager Gary McNair, and they would not be able to accommodate the request.

It's common practice in the broadcasting industry during major political debates for all media to be invited to participate by either selecting a representative from each station/newspaper or choose an independent moderator.

"We feel every TV station in the Wilmington market should have been invited," Combs said, "since it's being sponsored by the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. For a debate of this magnitude, involving all of the stations' viewing audiences is the ethical thing to do."

Thursday, the chamber announced it would not charge admission to the debate. It had originally wanted to charge members $25 and non-members $40 to attend. “

Some expressed that the cost was an obstacle to them attending, so we are doing what we can to be able to open it up to as many people as possible," said Majure-Rhett in a news release.

However, on his web site, Pantano says he requested the Chamber drop the admission fee because he thinks "people deserve fair and free access."

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