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Only Live TV Debates With Riordan, Woo Set for Sunday, Monday


The only two general election mayoral debates to be carried live by Los Angeles television stations are scheduled for Sunday and Monday, nearly eight weeks after the two finalists were determined in the April 20 primary election.

Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13 and 28 had all invited Richard Riordan and Michael Woo onto their airwaves for a number of debates. And Woo, who finished second in the primary with 24% of the vote, accepted all the invitations, according to various station officials. But Riordan, who finished atop the 24-candidate field with 33%, only accepted invitations from two stations--KCOP-TV Channel 13 and KTTV-TV Channel 11.

KCOP will have the first of the two debates at 9 p.m. Sunday. KTTV will show its debate at 6 p.m. Monday with KCRW-FM (89.9) providing a simulcast. Each debate is scheduled for an hour.

(The KTTV debate was originally planned for tonight, but was rescheduled after Riordan suspended campaigning until late today to be in New York for the funeral of his 101-year-old mother.)

Warren Cereghino, KTLA's news director, blames Riordan for the lack of television debates.

"His campaign obviously (has) not wanted him exposed," Cereghino said. "I have not been able to get them to tell me why they don't want to have their guy debate Woo on our air."

Said Joe Scott, Riordan's media director: "It isn't like we're ducking debates. The question is how many debates can you do when we have a grass-roots campaign around the city like we have since the very beginning? He's walked precincts from San Pedro to Sylmar."

To Joe Cerrell, a longtime political consultant who is not involved in the mayoral election, Riordan's refusal to engage in more televised debates is standard operating procedure for a candidate perceived to be the front-runner.

"When you're the front-runner, you have no desire to give free air time to your opponent, especially when you have virtually unlimited resources to saturate the airwaves," said Cerrell, referring to the $6 million Riordan has given to his campaign. "I'm not trying to be hostile to Riordan, but it's a rule of politics that the front-runner or alleged front-runner doesn't try to help the challenger."

After being rejected for a debate, Cereghino then asked each candidate to submit to a 15-minute one-on-one interview with anchorman Hal Fishman. Cereghino said Woo accepted and the Riordan campaign was "on the fence," about participating, but the death of Riordan's mother ended those plans.

Both candidates will be on KTLA's 8-9 a.m. newscast Monday, separately facing questions from voters.

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