Candidates will face off Aug. 19

Erica Felci • The Desert Sun • August 1, 2010

U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack and her Democratic challenger, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, will face off in an Aug. 19 debate.

It marks the first time the Palm Springs Republican congresswoman has debated a Democratic challenger since the 2002 election.

The hourlong debate will be co-sponsored by The Desert Sun and KPSP Local 2. It will be broadcast commercial-free on the CBS affiliate, streamed live on and KPSP’s website and simulcast on KNews Radio’s four frequencies.

There will be no audience at the debate, which will be moderated by staff members of The Desert Sun and the broadcast stations.

“Sponsoring this debate is part of The Desert Sun’s promise to provide comprehensive coverage of this race to ensure that voters have all of the information they need before casting their ballots,” said Rick Green, executive editor of The Desert Sun and

“We’re committed to using this forum not simply as a stage for the candidates to challenge each other, but to ask the questions that the average voter would have and to press for specific answers.”

The battle for the 45th Congressional District race has attracted widespread attention, with both Republicans and Democrats targeting the candidates in national fundraising efforts.

A third candidate, American Independent Bill Lussenheide, has not been as active in fundraising or campaigning.

Bono Mack, who has been in office 12 years, first indicated she would debate Pougnet after she secured the GOP nomination in the June 8 primary.

Her campaign manager, Ryan Mahoney, said it will provide the congresswoman “an opportunity to share ideas with voters” and present the “clear difference that exists between herself and Mayor Pougnet.”

“After this debate, voters will have an understanding of Pougnet’s liberal, big-government agenda and clearly recognize that Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack is the clear choice in this November’s election,” Mahoney said.

Pougnet, who was elected mayor in 2007, has called on Bono Mack to debate since last fall. After the primary election, he began pressing for a series of debates across the sprawling district.

“Mayor Pougnet is looking forward to debating Congresswoman Bono Mack because it’s the first time since 2002 that voters will hear directly from both candidates for Congress about issues that affect us all here in Riverside County,” his campaign manager, Jordan Marks, said in an e-mail.

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