Organizers of an Oct. 14 debate between U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and GOP challenger Sharron Angle are stepping up security and limiting the number of people each campaign can invite in the wake of violence at a Las Vegas candidate forum last week and growing media interest.
The Nevada Broadcasters Association said Monday it reduced from 40 to 12 the number of campaign staffers, family, friends and others that each campaign can bring to the debate. It's the only live, televised faceoff between Reid and Angle in the close Senate race.
The association took the step for two reasons: the need for tighter security and the need for more space to accommodate all of the local, national and international media requests to cover the debate inside a small Vegas PBS studio, said Bob Fisher, president and CEO of the association.
"On Friday night, Vegas PBS advised us and we agreed that the studio can absolutely not safely accommodate 80 people plus an unknown number of press and media who want to attend," Fisher said.
Fisher said the public was never invited to the hourlong debate, a televised forum to be broadcast live statewide at 6 p.m. and moderated by PBS' Mitch Fox, host of Nevada Week in Review.
The public will be able to participate in advance by submitting questions by text or video via YouTube at this address -- http://www.youtube.com/nevadadebate -- Fisher said. People also can vote on the site for their favorite questions, increasing the chances of the queries being asked.
Fisher and a colleague will select final questions from those submitted by Oct. 12 on the YouTube site and by television and radio stations statewide that are collecting questions, he said.
As of Friday, Fisher said that 95 percent of all statewide TV stations plan to air the debate live and that another 4 percent plan to broadcast it at a different time or different day.
The debate is the only one scheduled between the Democratic incumbent seeking a fifth Senate term and Angle, a former Reno assemblywoman who is running neck and neck with him in the polls.
Angle has refused to debate Reid after early voting starts on Oct. 16 in Nevada. The two candidates have been unable to agree on the timing or forum for several other potential debates.
Reid and Angle appeared separately Thursday at a forum at a local Christian school, but the event ended with a fistfight between two female Reid backers and a male Angle supporter.
Reid answered questions via pre-taped video at Faith Lutheran Junior/Senior High School in Summerlin, and Angle appeared live on stage to answer questions from a moderator.
Nearly 800 people packed the auditorium, including some Reid and Angle supporters who sometimes booed or heckled the candidates' answers, in particular during Angle's appearance.
During Angle's closing remarks, a group of Reid supporters began leaving the theater, including the two women who said they were trying to pass in front of the male Angle supporter, who objected. Words were exchanged, escalating until the man and one of the women slugged one another at least twice.
Reid and Angle supporters are expected to show up outside the Oct. 14 debate.
"We are tightening security. We have to," Fisher said. "Our challenge is that we are having a live television debate. That changes the dynamic.
"We cannot afford to have an accident on live television. It is a safety issue," he added, saying the studio will be using special, expensive equipment, including a jib arm camera that sits on the end of a weighted, boomlike device so it can move all around the space.
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