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Delaware Debates 2010

​Delaware Debates 2010, House of Representatives

  • Each debate will last about 60 minutes, from open to close, including all introductions and conclusions.
  • The debate will include questions from a single moderator and questions from students at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University. The producer and moderator shall determine which questions are asked, by whom, and when during the debate.
  • Time limits on statements, answers, rebuttals, and responses will be enforced by the moderator during the debate.
  • No participant in the debate (neither candidates nor questioners) shall be allowed to use props or visuals of any kind. No participant in the debate (neither candidates nor questioners) shall touch any other participants during the debate, except during handshake opportunities at the beginning and end of the debate.
  • Candidates and the moderator will be seated around a table for the entire duration of each debate. Neither the candidates nor the moderator shall rise from their seats during the debate, except upon their arrival and departure.
  • Debate participants (both candidates and questioners) may refer to limited notes as prompts.
  • Notes should be placed in front of the speaker. They may be written on letter-sized sheets of paper or index cards that can fit into a letter size business folder or within an ordinary binder up to 2" thick that holds 8-1/2" x 11" pages.
  • Candidates, moderators and questioners may write notes for their own use throughout the program.
  • No placards, posters, stickers or other such campaign materials shall be displayed by the candidates during the debate. (The same rule applies to members of the audience, regardless of their affiliation with the candidates, if any.)
  • The moderator may interrupt any candidate if the moderator believes the candidate is straying from the subject matter.
  • The candidates shall not interrupt one another. It is the moderator's responsibility and discretion―not the candidates'―to enforce this rule.
  • Surrogates will not be allowed to participate in the debate in place of a candidate.
  • Each candidate, or appointed representatives of each candidate, shall have supervised access to the debate site and stage area on the day of the debate by appointment with Nancy Karibjanian.
  • The candidate shall not have access to any person during the debate other than the moderator, and, in the case of an emergency, a member of the production crew or staff. Texting or other use of technology by the candidates to communicate are not permitted during the debate.


There will be a non-participatory audience in Mitchell Hall; this means the audience is invited to observe the debate and will be instructed not to applaud, cheer, or wave campaign materials―or otherwise demonstrate―during the debate. The debate staff and security will enforce this rule.

The debate hosts shall reserve 10 tickets for each candidate's invited guests. The remainder of Mitchell Hall will be open to guests, students, and the general public. 

No campaign materials, including literature, hats, stickers, signs or banners will be allowed inside Mitchell Hall. The live audience will be prohibited from applauding or making noise during the debate and may not do anything visible or audible to express support or opposition to any candidate during the debate. Violations will prompt immediate removal of audience members from the debate venue. 

When the candidates are speaking during the debate, no audience reaction shots will be broadcast. Audience shots during the debate will be broadcast only when the moderator is speaking or during transitions in the program.

Camera shots of the candidates reacting to one another will be balanced in number and length, as determined solely by the producers. When reaction shots are on camera, the candidate who is speaking will be included in the shot as well as the reacting candidate.

Debate Format

The moderator will open Delaware Debates with a welcome and introduction, followed by an explanation of the format. The Delaware Debates are structured to encourage substantive discussion of important issues, and to ensure a thorough array of issues; therefore, rather than opening statements, the debate will begin with a first question by the moderator. The stage set will facilitate a "round-table" style conversation. Candidates and the moderator will be seated around a simple table. The moderator will address questions to all the candidates, but not all candidates will be expected to answer every question. Candidates are not allowed to stand up or walk around during the debate. 

Order of Responses and Closing Statements

  • A coin toss conducted backstage before the debate begins will determine the order of candidate responses to the moderator's questions and the order for a two-minute closing statement.
  • When there are two candidates participating, the candidate who wins the toss chooses whether to answer first. Candidates who open first ("first word"), close first. Candidates who open second will close second ("last word").
  • When there are more than two candidates, the order shall be determined by drawing lots backstage before the debate program begins. A second draw will determine the order for closing statements.
  • Closing statements made by candidates shall be intended to offer each candidate an opportunity to speak about themselves, rather than making charges or attacks against another candidate that have not been previously raised during the debate. If a candidate violates this rule and the attacked candidate has already completed his or her closing statement, the moderator may offer the attacked candidate the right to make a short rebuttal, if time permits, after the closing statement segment has been completed.


Each one-hour debate will be divided among substantive subject areas. For example, there will be a segment primarily dedicated to domestic national issues, another devoted to international issues, and a third focused on Delaware state and regional issues. There may also be segments focusing on narrower subject areas, such as immigration, health care, the judiciary, the responsibilities of branches of government, the role of media and government information, and Constitutional issues.

The number of segments, the subject areas, the length and the order of discussion during the debate shall be determined exclusively by the moderator and the producers. Candidates will be advised before the beginning of the debate of the subject areas of the segments in their debate, with the intention of forestalling repetition by allowing the candidates to reserve their remarks for the appropriate segment.

The segments―indeed the entire debate―are designed to be fair and even-handed to every candidate.

Candidates are expected to confine their answers to moderator questions to about 90-seconds (or less) each, with the intention of keeping the discussion focused rather than general. The moderator and production staff will keep candidates informed of their elapsed time, and they will enforce the limits. This is not to limit what the candidates say, but rather to ensure that the overall debate can broadly cover the field of subjects of interest to voters in the time allowed.

It is the intent of the producers to encourage the candidates to "discuss" with each other some of the answers to the questions posed by the moderators, not merely to deliver scripted answers. Therefore, the moderator may prompt follow-up discussion of certain questions, following the candidates' initial responses.

The debate may include a "lightning round" of short questions and short answers, designed to deal with some issues for which candidate positions are important to voters, but need not necessarily involve deep explanations. If a "lightning round" is conducted, candidates are expected to keep their answers to 60-seconds or less.

Rule Enforcement

Candidates and campaigns have a right to make sure the rules and format of a debate are fair and even-handedly applied. When rules are established, and participants are given full notice of them, it is expected that all participants will strictly adhere to them without exception. 


  • Candidates should arrive at Mitchell Hall at the University of Delaware at least 60 minutes before the scheduled debate start time, to allow for the coin toss, make-up and hair styling and familiarization with the stage set.
  • Make-up and hair styling services will be provided.
  • Candidates will be assigned a small "green room" to prepare prior to the debate.
  • Water, notepads, and pens will be provided for candidates. Candidates are also welcome to bring their own writing instrument and notes for the program.

Questions or Concerns

Any questions or concerns regarding debate rules or petitions for candidate inclusion should be directed to Nancy Karibjanian, Director of the Center for Political Communication, or Jane Vincent, President, Delaware Public Media.

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  • Center for Political Communication
  • 190A Graham Hall, 111 Academy Street
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-7771
  • Send us an email
  • Department of Communication
  • Department of Political Science and International Relations