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AARP Arkansas Sponsors Nine Candidate Debates

It is said that “all politics is local.” Yet sometimes interest in politics is not.

A series of nine AARP-sponsored candidate debates in Arkansas, which were broadcast on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) and the local public radio affiliate, were interesting enough to gain state, national and, even, international attention.

With issues like Social Security, Medicare and the deficit leading the discussion topics it’s not surprising that media requests came from the Associated Press, NBC News, FOX News, CNN and even Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbuni. Also, C-Span was provided copies of the debates for U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress and a film crew from Japan was present for the Congressional District 1 debate.

The 60 to 90-minute debates featured the candidates in races for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, U.S. Senate and all four Congressional Districts. An estimated 15,000 Arkansans watched each of the debates live and the entire series received the most web hits of any project in AETN’s history.

The phrase “AETN Debates” became one of the top five phrases searched for on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Bing during the week the programs aired. Also, prior to the debates a radio ad campaign promoting the series reached 273,500 Arkansans.

Along with top billing at the beginning and end of the debates, AARP Arkansas exhibited a well-branded voter education booth in the auditorium’s lobby and a completely shrink-wrapped AARP Voter Van was parked in front. State staff and Executive Council members also met with the candidates after each debate.

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