Rep. Uses Technology in Campaign Debate

A Florida congressman used a wireless e-mail device to read two messages sent by an aide during a live, televised debate with other Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch (search) said he always wears the palm-sized BlackBerry on his belt and checked for e-mails only during commercial breaks. He said he did not receive tips on his oratory or answers to difficult questions — only words of encouragement from consultant Mark Penn.

"It was nothing of substance," Deutsch said of the two e-mails he erased. "It said, 'You're doing a good job.'"

Deutsch said Friday that he also received e-mails from friends offering words of encouragement during the debate. He regularly uses two BlackBerrys (search) but said he would no longer wear the devices in debates.

"I'm going to use an abacus," he quipped.

Representatives for both of Deutsch's primary rivals, former state Education Commissioner Betty Castor (search) and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas (search), said they carried only handwritten notes and blank paper to the debate.

Tom Kastanotis, who produced the debate for West Palm Beach television station WPTV, said he would prefer candidates not carry wireless messaging devices during public forums.

"I think it's better to have candidates thinking on their feet," Kastanotis said. "When the pressure is on, can they think clearly or do they have to look to their advisers?"