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October 11, 2019

Hartford misses out on 2020 presidential, vice-presidential debate

HBJ File Photo Downtown Hartford's skyline.

The city of Hartford on Friday missed out on its chance to become one of four cities to host a 2020 presidential or vice-presidential debate.

The Commission of Presidential Debates, which has sponsored or produced the debates since 1988, on Friday afternoon named the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., as hosts of next year’s debates between Sept. 29 and Oct. 22.

The 2020 U.S. presidential election is Nov. 3, 2020.

In April, Hartford was named one of six cities being considered to host one of next year’s presidential or vice-presidential debates. Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., was the other finalist that was not selected Friday.

Hartford officials, with help from a grassroots organizing committee, had proposed The Bushnell Performing Arts Center and the Connecticut Convention Center as potential debate sites.

Members of the commission toured the city in May.

In recent months, The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving pledged $1 million to the local committee working to bring the events to the Capital City.

Jay Williams, president of the Hartford Foundation, in a statement Friday said the organization is “disappointed” by the commission’s decision, adding that it will still be providing funding to spur engagement in the 2020 election.

“To that end, the foundation has earmarked several hundred thousand dollars toward distributing free civics education resources in English and Spanish, convening community-wide issue forums, and continuing our Get Out The Vote and Census 2020 efforts,” Williams said. “We will plan to engage as many stakeholders and community members across the Hartford region in the months leading up to the 2020 election."

Hartford last hosted a debate in the presidential race featuring Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole in Oct. 1996 at then Bushnell Theater.

Aired on CNN, the Hartford debate in 1996 drew more than 46 million television viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

[Watch the 1996 presidential debate here]

On Friday, the commission listed the following dates and locations for 2020 presidential or vice-presidential debates:

First presidential debate:
Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN

Vice presidential debate:
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020
The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Second presidential debate:
Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Third presidential debate:
Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020
Belmont University, Nashville, TN

This story has been updated to include comment from Jay Williams

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