Texas State University Released from Contract to Host Presidential Debate as Biden and Trump Change Plans

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Discover why Texas State University was released from its contract to host the first 2024 presidential debate. Learn about the implications of Biden and Trump sidestepping traditional debate formats and how this decision impacts universities and the electoral process.

Texas State University Released from Contract to Host Presidential Debate as Biden and Trump Change Plans
Texas State University Released from Contract to Host Presidential Debate as Biden and Trump Change Plans

Texas State Released from Contract to Host Debate, as Biden and Trump Sidestep Tradition

In a surprising turn of events, Texas State University has been released from its contract to host a presidential debate, marking a significant shift in the traditional debate schedule. The San Marcos campus was set to host the first debate of the 2024 general election on September 16. However, both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have sidestepped the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has historically organized these forums, and have instead brokered their own arrangements.

The Shift in Debate Hosting

The decision to release Texas State from its contract was confirmed on Monday, extinguishing any lingering hope that Texas would host a presidential debate this election cycle. This move also affected other institutions, including Lafayette College, Virginia State University, and the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, which were all released from their contracts to host debates in the fall.

“It is unfair to ask the four campuses to continue to prepare for their debates, as they have been doing since their November 2023 selection,” said Antonia Hernández and Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairs of the CPD, in a joint statement. “We are grateful to the sites, and we are sorry to come to this decision. We are dismayed that students of the four campuses will not have the opportunity to participate in these historic voter education forums.”

Texas State’s Historical Role

Texas State University was poised to make history as the first Texas university to host a presidential debate. The university had planned to spend about $5 million on the event and had appointed Jack Martin, a former chair of the Texas State University System’s Board of Regents, to spearhead fundraising efforts. However, following the announcement of Biden and Trump’s alternative plans, the university halted all planning and spending related to the debate.

“We remain steadfast in supporting our students and the entire university community as they continue to learn about democracy, to engage in civil discourse and to participate in the electoral process throughout the upcoming election cycle,” Texas State President Kelly Damphousse stated. He emphasized the university’s excitement to host the forum as the only Texas university to have graduated a U.S. president and the only Hispanic-Serving Institution selected to host a debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates

The CPD was established in 1987 as a nonpartisan organization to provide a neutral forum for candidates ahead of the general election. While news organizations frequently host debates during the primaries, the CPD has been the cornerstone of general election debates, ensuring that candidates focus on issues important to the American public.

Despite the changes, the CPD expressed its readiness to sponsor debates if circumstances were to change. “The reason for the CPD’s creation remains compelling: a neutral organization with no other role during the general election is well-positioned to offer formats that focus on the candidate and the issues that are most important to the American people,” Hernández and Fahrenkopf explained.

Concerns Raised by the Biden Campaign

The Biden campaign has raised concerns about the CPD’s debate format, suggesting it is no longer aligned with contemporary voting trends. They pointed out that debates scheduled after early voting has commenced in many states may not be as impactful. Additionally, the campaign criticized the CPD for not enforcing its own rules during the 2020 debates.

In light of these concerns, Biden and Trump are expected to debate for the first time on Thursday, hosted by CNN in Atlanta. They are also scheduled for another debate on September 10. However, these debates will not be under the purview of the CPD.

Independent Candidates and Debate Participation

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. failed to qualify for this week’s debate in Georgia. CNN had set criteria requiring participants to qualify for ballot spots in states that total at least 270 Electoral College votes, the minimum required to win the presidency.

Implications for Texas State University

The cancellation of the debate at Texas State University is a significant setback for the institution, which had hoped to gain national recognition through the event. The university had been looking forward to engaging its students in the electoral process and providing a platform for civil discourse.

Despite this disappointment, Texas State remains committed to promoting democratic engagement and education among its students. The university will continue to support its community in learning about democracy and participating in the electoral process.


The release of Texas State University from its contract to host a presidential debate reflects broader changes in how presidential debates are being organized and conducted. As Biden and Trump sidestep traditional formats, the role of institutions like the CPD and the universities selected to host debates is evolving. While Texas State University and other institutions may have lost the opportunity to host these debates, their commitment to fostering democratic engagement and education remains steadfast. The upcoming debates, although outside the traditional framework, will still play a crucial role in shaping the electoral landscape as candidates engage with the public on critical issues.

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