BALTIMORE -- After months of negotiations and delays, the two Democratic candidates for mayor have agreed to a televised hourlong debate later this month.
A panel of six, including representatives of news organizations and the League of Women Voters, will question Mayor Clarence (Du) Burns and State's Attorney Kurt L. Schmoke on Aug. 28, Irene Williams, the president of the league, said Friday.
The league is sponsoring the debate with WMAR-TV, Channel 2.
"For the first time in many years, the people of Baltimore will be electing a new mayor," said Arnold J. Kleiner, president of WMAR-TV. "This debate is important because it's going to provide us with the information to allow us to make that choice."
Burns, the former Baltimore City Council president, took over as mayor in January after William Donald Schaefer became governor after 15 years as mayor.
Recent polls have shown Schmoke with a commanding lead over Burns.
The debate will come a little more than two weeks before the Sept. 15 primary, in which the major battle for mayor will be played because registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans in the city.
The debate format, negotiated by the candidates, will allow each candidate 90-second opening and closing statements and an opportunity for rebuttal during the questioning.
The debate's sponsors had invited the candidates to meet months ago but heard nothing from the Burns camp.
Schmoke had said he would agree to a debate. But at first, Burns had said he would not participate in any debates.
Recently, after encouragement from the Rev. Wendell Phillips, his campaign manager, the mayor has said he would agree to a debate but continued to say he saw little need for one.
Schmoke's campaign manager, Larry Gibson, said he could not guarantee that Schmoke would be able to find an open date should Burns decide late to meet him in a forum.
The debate's sponsors increased their efforts last week to have Burns and Schmoke agree on a time and a format for the debate.