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In Texas, Debra Medina Back in Upcoming TV Debate
By GROMER JEFFERS JR.
Republican activist Debra Medina will get another shot at her party's titans in the second debate for governor this month.
Citing a new statewide poll that boosted Medina's standing, the debate's organizers said Monday that she will be taking part in the faceoff against Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Jan. 29 at WFAA-TV (Channel 8) in Dallas.
The Medina campaign said it welcomed the invitation, and spokesmen for Perry and Hutchison said they looked forward to the event -- coming just two weeks after their first debate in Denton.
How Medina will affect the outcome of the GOP primary remains a big question in Republican circles, and the latest survey by Rasmussen Reports -- using a disputed methodology -- spurred predictions that no one will get a majority March 2. That means the top two vote-getters will be forced into a runoff in April.
"We are thrilled to be included," said Medina campaign manager Penny Langford Freeman. "Debra has a different approach and style that endeared her to the listeners in the first debate, and she will continue to simply have a truthful conversation with the people of Texas."
Medina, a former Wharton County GOP chairwoman, has sought to appeal to conservatives with an anti-tax, anti-big-government pitch, but she is far behind in raising money. If she makes headway, she has been seen as possibly damaging Perry more than Hutchison among that bloc of voters.
Hutchison spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said, "We have advocated for Medina's inclusion in the debate from the beginning and are pleased that the debate sponsors refused to be pressured by Rick Perry into keeping her out."
Mark Miner of the Perry campaign said the governor was not involved in setting the debate rules.
"Gov. Perry looks forward to talking to people about issues facing Texans," Miner said. "We welcome Ms. Medina to the debate."
The debate is sponsored by Belo TV stations in Texas and The Dallas Morning News.
The Rasmussen poll surveyed 831 likely GOP primary voters on Sunday, finding Perry ahead with 43 percent, followed by Hutchison at 33 percent and Medina at 12 percent.
The rest were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent percentage points, meaning each result can vary that much in either direction.
The Rasmussen findings do not meet the polling standards of The News and some other media outlets because the poll relied on automated telephone calls.
After reviewing the Rasmussen results, Mike Devlin, WFAA's president and general manager, said Medina's jump from single digits in the last poll indicates she is a viable candidate who meets Belo's criteria for the televised debate.
Bob Mong, editor of The News, agreed.
"If her numbers have improved, she should be included," he said.
Belo's criteria include at least a 15 percent standing in independent public opinion polls, the standard used by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Over the past few days, Medina supporters had flooded Belo TV stations and The News with complaints about debate rules.
Earlier Monday, about 30 Medina loyalists rallied in front of the TV and newspaper offices in downtown Dallas.
They carried signs and shouted, "Let Medina debate."
"We just think everybody should have a fair shake," said Gary Beadel, a retired schoolteacher and protester who lives in Oak Leaf in Ellis County.
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