Debate Minnesota is run by a multi-partisan board of directors. It was launched in 2004 by the Debate Minnesota Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt and nonpartisan 501 c(3), which provides all funding for the program.
Will Haddeland created Debate Minnesota in an effort to go beyond television sound bytes and one-sided political brochures and advertisements. The idea is to give candidates a level playing field and public platform in which their ideas can be challenged and exchanged in a fair and honest discussion of the issues.
“With Debate Minnesota, we are supporting a process by which Minnesotans can gain a clear and concise understanding of what candidates for elected office want for their communities and how they propose to accomplish their goals,” Haddeland said.
Former State Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe added, “We must return civility and respect to our political process through debates that focus on our citizens’ hunger for reliable information…we have a realistic opportunity to bring people back into the political process.”
Debate Minnesota administers debates within all applicable legal requirements, including regulations of the Federal Election Commission and the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board.
Learning From Our Past
The famous Lincoln-Douglas debates during the 1858 Illinois senatorial election were the inspiration for the Debate Minnesota mission. Democratic incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas faced off that year with Republican challenger Abraham Lincoln in a series of seven content-based debates.
Although Lincoln lost the senate election (but went on to win the U.S. presidency two years later), the debates reminded a still-young nation of its critical role in shaping its future. The public square became an opportunity to exchange ideas and ideals, and a platform for the people to shape the country.
Inspired by the spirit of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the Debate Minnesota founders envisioned a return to civility in politics. The program’s inaugural year hosted 19 debates in 19 districts around the state to wide acclaim.
This year’s election season will be pivotal in setting the stage of our political futures. Please join us as we bring our communities back into the decision-making process with a fair and informative discussion of the issues that truly matter.