Obama, Edwards to participate in forum

Univision’s first presidential debate took a step closer to fruition Tuesday as Democratic hopefuls Barack Obama and John Edwards agreed to participate in the Sept. 9 forum.

Last week, Dem front-runner Hillary Clinton committed to appear at the event on the Spanish-language after Univision agreed to classify the debate as a “forum.” The Clinton camp has said it will not participate in debates not sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, but it will, selectively, attend so-called “forums,” such as Logo’s event last week and the Univision event in September.

Christopher Dodd and Bill Richardson, both fluent in Spanish, jumped on the invitation to participate in the debate, which will be moderated by “Noticiero Univision” anchors Jose Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas and held at the U. of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.

Richardson balked when his campaign learned that candidates will be required to speak English during the debate, which will be translated, negating any linguistic advantage he or Dodd might have.

Univision is also seeking to host a forum for Republicans the following week on Sept. 16, but only Arizona Sen. John McCain has agreed to participate.

The debates will be a first for Univision, which on a local level plays an advocacy role for the U.S. Spanish-speaking population.

Both Salinas and Ramos have appeared on CNN to debate the immigration issue with Lou Dobbs. Univision employee and radio host Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo helped organize a pro-immigrant rally in Los Angeles and spearheaded a nationwide letter-writing campaign for “a fair and just immigration reform bill.”

Univision stations are devoting considerable public service ad time to the cause of encouraging immigrants to apply for citizenship and to vote.

The importance of courting the Latino aud should not be overlooked by candidates, Univision CEO Joe Uva told Daily Variety. Hispanics “may decide the next president of the United States,” he said.

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