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Girl power: After N.J. teens circulate petition, presidential debate will include female moderator

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced the three moderators for a trio of October debates that will pit Barack Obama against Mitt Romney. Joining presidential-debate veterans Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer on the list of moderators is newcomer Candy Crowley, who will become the first woman in 20 years to moderate a debate between presidential candidates.

"Crowley will host the second debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Oct. 16 in Hempsted, N.Y., at Hoftsra University," CNN's Political Ticker blog reported Monday. "The last woman to moderate a presidential debate was Carole Simpson in 1992. Barbara Walters also hosted two presidential debates, in 1976 and 1984. … Other debate moderators announced Monday included PBS' Jim Lehrer, who will host the Oct. 3 debate in Denver, and CBS' Bob Schieffer, who will host an Oct. 22 debate in Boca Raton, Florida."

Crowley's selection carries added significance because, as CBS News noted Monday, "three teenagers from New Jersey had pressed for the Commission on Presidential Debates to choose a woman moderator for one of the presidential debates."

The three teens — Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis and Sammi Siegel — created two petitions in recent months on that combined to receive 122,344 and 57,982 virtual signatures, respectively.

“What a huge victory for women, for equal representation, and for the more than 180,000 people who stood with us and demanded a female presidential debate moderator,” Siegel wrote Monday on “We are thrilled that the Commission on Presidential Debates is ending its 20-year drought on women moderators. It is long past due to have a woman on the same stage as the men running for president.”

When CNN hosted two debates for Republican presidential candidates earlier this election cycle, Crowley was not tapped to moderate either one; those roles went to her CNN colleagues Wolf Blitzer and John King. Per CBS News, Crowley's previous experience as a debate moderator includes last month's "U.S. Senate debate in Virginia between former governors George Allen and Tim Kaine (and) a debate between U.S. Senate candidates in Florida ahead of the 2010 election."

The Washington Post reported the debate commission also announced Monday that "ABC’s Martha Raddatz will moderate the lone vice presidential debate between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)" on Oct. 11.

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at or 801-236-6051.