Last week's gubernatorial debate at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston didn't make much news for the candidates' positions, as it covered well-trodden ground, but it was different than most of the others in two ways. It was one of only two televised debates in which U.S. Sen. David Vitter participated (out of seven total), and it was the only one where neither students nor media were allowed in the debate room — a particularly remarkable restriction for a public university.
While all the candidates' campaigns insisted the no-audience rule was not their requirement, and an online petition urging the university to change its mind drew plenty of signatories, Louisiana Tech didn't relent, relegating the press to watching the debate on a big-screen TV on another floor. The problem with that arrived in the form of several technical glitches. In some instances, microphones were too low to be heard or sound dropped out entirely, and at least once there was neither sound nor picture for people watching in the building, on statewide television or via Internet.
After the debate, Vitter left the stage alone as the other three candidates — Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. John Bel Edwards — chatted among themselves. Vitter also was the only candidate not to engage the press afterward. According to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune's Julia O'Donoghue, all three of Vitter's competitors told the assembled reporters they believed Vitter's campaign was responsible for the strangely restrictive debate conditions.