8th District debates

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been changed to include the correct number of proposed debates.

Plans are under way for debates among candidates vying for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in Missouri's 8th District, a geographically huge area spreading across 28 counties that cover much of southern Missouri.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican, has represented the district since 1996 and is seeking another term. She is being challenged by Democrat Tommy Sowers of Rolla, Libertarian Rick Vandeven of Chaffee and Larry Bill of Jackson. All four candidates are expected to participate in the first debate planned for Oct. 11 at Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus.

In an age when political ads on TV seldom address the issues, and when new media such as bloggers and Facebook posters produce so much unverified information, face-to-face debates offer voters some sense of how candidates think and how well they understand the key concerns of 8th District residents.

Emerson has proposed three debates all within a one-week period in October. Sowers wants the debates spread out, plus three more debate as well. Turning the debate schedule into a campaign issue won't do voters any good. The sooner the two leading candidates agree on the debate dates and locations the better.