WASHINGTON -- Maryland and Georgia, two March 3 primary states touting themselves as key stops on the road to the Democratic nomination, will each hold candidate forums on Sunday. And the five Democratic candidates are deciding whether to attend one -- or both.
Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton expects to attend both forums, said a campaign official. While former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas has not made a commitment, organizers in each state are expecting him.
Tom Cowley, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said that only Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey is uncertain whether he will attend.
Maryland's 90-minute candidates' forum will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. over Maryland Public Television from the Tawes Theatre at the University of Maryland College Park. Sponsored by the Maryland Democratic Party and the university's School of Public Affairs, the forum will be moderated by political commentator Bob Beckel, with questions coming from the audience.
WJHU and WEAA radio stations will simulcast the forum, said Michael Styer, MPT's senior vice president for broadcasting. C-SPAN will broadcast the forum at 9:30 p.m. Sunday and 12:30 a.m. Monday morning. The forum also is being offered to public television stations and National Public Radio stations nationwide.
Earlier in the day, at 12 p.m., a one-hour campaign debate will be held at the Carter Presidential Center on the outskirts of Atlanta, sponsored by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and WSB-TV, Atlanta's ABC affiliate. A moderator and two Atlanta journalists will question the candidates.
The taped debate will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m., and will be available to all TV stations in Georgia, said WSB-TV producer Susan Chambers. C-SPAN also will carry the debate, although ** the exact time is uncertain, said Steve Scully, C-SPAN's political editor.
On Saturday afternoon, another debate will be held in Colorado, which also is holding a March 3 primary. The 90-minute debate at the Auditorium Theater in Denver, will be sponsored by the Rocky Mountain News and KUSA-TV, the ABC affiliate, along with the Colorado Democratic Party. C-SPAN will carry the debate at 9:30 p.m. EST.
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin is the only Democratic candidate who is uncertain whether he will attend, said Nancy Burkhart, press secretary for the Colorado Democratic Party.
The campaign forums are important stops for the candidates, offering wide exposure just two days before voters head to the polls.
Maryland is a key state for Mr. Tsongas, who is ahead in the polls and eager to capture a victory outside his native New England. At the same time, the forum will offer Mr. Clinton a chance to appeal to Maryland voters, since he has spent little time in the state, said Mr. Cowley.
Meanwhile, Georgia will be the first Southern test for the Democratic candidates. Tom Bennett, assistant metropolitan editor at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, said Mr. Clinton is the only candidate who has said he will attend. The other four Democratic candidates are being asked to confirm by today.
"We expect them, considering Georgia's significance in the race," Mr. Bennett said.
The Georgia debate was originally slated for 6:30 p.m. but rescheduled to allow the candidates enough time to attend the Maryland forum.