As the Interstate 4 corridor goes, so goes Florida, and as Florida goes, so goes the nation.
That explains in part why two debates of Republican presidential candidates are set for the region in September, said Kathy King, chair of the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee.
Republican presidential candidates are set to debate Sept. 12 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, the Florida State Fair Authority announced Wednesday. The debate would be hosted by CNN and the Tea Party Express.
The Tea Party Express is the fifth of a series of cross-country bus tours. The Express is scheduled to start in Napa Valley, Calif., on Aug. 27 and travel to Tampa.
“This debate will focus the eyes of the nation on the Tampa Bay area and all that we have to offer,” said Chuck Pesano, executive director for the Florida State Fair Authority.
Presidency Five, another debate of Republican presidential candidates, moderated by Fox TV, and ending with a straw poll by delegates, is set for Sept. 22-24 in Orlando.
Joan Shirey, president of the East Manatee Republican Club, worried about the wisdom of having two presidential debates so closely together.
But King had no such reservations.
“It’s exciting. It’s starting to get busy and there is a lot of energy,” King said.
The American Conservative Union will hold the Conservative Political Conference Sept. 23 at the same venue as Presidency Five. Among those scheduled to attend that event is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, King said.
King said she plans to attend the Presidency Five events, and probably the debate at the Florida State Fairgrounds as well.
“I think it’s great for the region,” King said.
Adam Putnam, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, issued a statement Wednesday.
“Hosting the upcoming Republican Presidential Debate will bring new audiences to the Florida State Fairgrounds,” Putnam said.
“This is a win-win for Florida. Not only will it be a valuable opportunity for the people and businesses of the Tampa Bay area, but it will also enable us to gain national attention for the venue where we celebrate Florida’s rich agricultural heritage each year.”