Clinton, Obama to debate in Raleigh

Triangle residents hoping to see the Democratic presidential candidates spar one last time before the May 6 North Carolina primary may be in luck.

Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might debate in the race for their party's nomination April 27, at Raleigh's RBC Center near the campus of North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Democratic Party announced Tuesday afternoon.

Clinton's campaign has officially agreed to participate in the debate but the NCDP is still awaiting confirmation from Obama, Bolton said.

The NCDP will host the 90-minute debate in conjunction with CBS News and N.C. State.

"North Carolinians are excited about the opportunity to hear from both candidates, right here in our state about the issues that are important to us," NCDP Chair Jerry Meek said in a statement Tuesday. "Their participation in this debate will be the clearest indication of North Carolina's importance in this process."

N.C. State and the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, N.C., were the other finalists considered to host the debate, NCDP Communications Director Kerra Bolton told The Chronicle. Elon University, Wake Forest University and Duke were among other schools that had expressed interest in hosting the event.

"I talked to some people at the Democratic Party, I talked to some people at CBS and I just made it clear that we would be interested in hosting the debate," said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. "This is a once-every-four-year phenomenon. In my memory here, in 17 years, this is really the first time the North Carolina primary has really mattered."

Bolton said the factors considered in the selection process included parking, seating, security and the logistical concerns of both campaigns.

"Duke was never seriously considered," she said.

Burness, however, said he did not think Duke was ruled out because of infrastructural issues like parking or seating. He noted that University officials discussed holding the event in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Bobby Mills, a junior and student body president at N.C. State, said the university would be an ideal host for the debate because of its location and large student population.

"We are in the Triangle so we have a great resource here," he said. "We are also in the state capital."

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