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Wisconsin Broadcasters Association withdraws offer to hold live primary debates

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association has announced they will withdraw from hosting live primary debates. 

The announcement comes after criticism of the format they had chosen for the gubernatorial debate. 

The WBA previously said they would limit debate to four candidates who would be determined by the Marquette Law Poll. But the Poll's director said he didn't want it used that way and several candidates said they would boycott the debate if they kept that formula. 

The WBA sent the following statement Thursday afternoon:

"After much deliberation and discussion, the WBA Foundation Board has decided to withdraw its offer to hold live broadcast primary debates for the Republican U.S. Senate primary and Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The WBA Foundation will instead focus its efforts on continuing its more than 30 year tradition of holding general election debates. Details regarding the debates in the races for U.S. Senate and Governor of Wisconsin will be announced at a later date and will be offered on television and radio stations across the state.

“There is a lot of interest in these primary elections, which is why we initially made an attempt to hold these debates.” WBA President and CEO Michelle Vetterkind said. “By withdrawing the offer for primary debates, others can now pursue candidate forums in their respective primaries.” Vetterkind added. “Broadcasters remain committed to helping Wisconsin voters make informed decisions at the ballot box and the WBA Foundation is looking forward to playing an important role in that process this fall.""

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin said a four-person format would have caused problems because candidates haven't had enough time to separate from the pack. They said it left the possibility of a candidate who didn't even make the debate becoming the nominee. Marquette Political Science Professor Paul Nolette says having ten legitimate candidates made the process difficult. 

"In any sort of debate if you cross a certain line in terms of the number of people on the stage, then it's going to get very unwieldy," said Nolette. 

The Republican Primary Debate for U.S. Senate has been canceled as well. The WBA says they will later announce when they will hold the general election debates for Senate and Governor. 

The primary election is August 14. For more information about what will be on your ballot, please click here

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