Oxford plans to move forward with debate

OXFORD, MS (WMC-TV) - Officials with the city of Oxford and the University of Mississippi said Wednesday afternoon they would continue to prepare for Friday night's presidential debate -- even after Republican John McCain said he wants to delay it to focus on resolving the nation's financial problems.

Oxford Mayor Richard Howorth issued remarks directed squarely at McCain as he spoke to a group of students.

"As mayor of the city of Oxford, I appeal to John McCain to reconsider and come to Oxford," he said.

Howorth told the crowd that until he hears otherwise from debate organizers, all of Oxford's debate events will go on as planned.  Jamie Franks, the chair of Mississippi's Democratic Party, agreed with Howorth's decision.

"I think the University, city of Oxford, and Commission has spent a lot of time and effort putting this thing together," Franks said. "I understand facing a problem here in the country, but at the same time, take an hour and a half out of their schedule."

After McCain's statement, Democratic candidate Barack Obama said given the economic situation, it's more important than ever for voters to hear from the presidential candidates.

Ole Miss has spent more than $4.5 million to prepare for the debate. Streets are blocked, and campus security is tight.

The university has been holding seminars, voter-registration drives and other events leading into what's supposed to be McCain and Obama's first debate since they were nominated at their parties' national conventions last month.

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

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