On the heels of “WhiteyGate”, Rich Whitney shut out of Chicago debates
October 18, 2010 in State Wide Elections
From Illinois Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney:
Just days after Rich Whitney’s name was found to be misspelled on voting machine throughout Chicago, the Green Party candidate for governor is now finding himself locked out of three Chicago debates, including one going on tonight at Elmhurst College, 8 p.m..
Tonight’s debate, along with the League of Women Voters on Oct 20 and WTTW Channel 11 on Oct 28 debates, are set to include only Brady and Quinn, leaving out the only other established party candidate, Rich Whitney, despite heavy lobbying from Green Party representatives and supporters.
The debate exclusions come after a very successful debate among the three established party candidates in Southern Illinois — including Whitney — in Carbondale, far outside the Chicago political monopoly.
“Whitney won hands down,” wrote David Ormsby in a piece for examiner.com.
“Whitney… seemed to be [the] only one of the three to seize the gravity of the state budget mess,” wrote Chuck Sudo for chicagoist.com.
Similar comments were expressed by Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn after a five-way gubernatorial forum discussion held before the paper’s editorial board .
“Rich Whitney was the best spoken, had the best command of the facts and, in my opinion, had the most sensible ideas for moving Illinois forward,” wrote Zorn on October 1.
“Clearly Rich Whitney belongs in these debates, but debate organizers continue to stonewall us. This is clearly the result of pressure by the Democrats,” said Phil Huckelberry, Chair of the Illinois Green Party.
Democrats have been ducking debates with Green candidates since 2006, when Rod Blagojevich pulled out of two debates to avoid appearing with Whitney, causing one debate to be canceled completely and one to be radically altered into a less interesting format. Since then, sponsors have been reluctant to allow Green Party candidates to participate in major televised debates, afraid that doing so may lead to a debate cancellation.
In fact, the WSIU-TV debate was canceled when Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias ‘pulled a Blagojevich’ and dropped out of the debate in Southern Illinois to protest the inclusion of Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones.
“That definitely was a warning shot, and these organizers got the message,” said Andrew Finko, an attorney who has represented Green Party in negotiations with debate sponsors.“Organizers don’t want their debates canceled, particularly when they’re charging $100 per person to attend. So, organizers cave in to ‘bi-partisanship.’ They create arbitrary criteria, though IRS and FCC regulations prohibit broadcasters and tax exempt entities from supporting certain candidates over others, which is precisely what these debates are doing.”
Both Elmhurst College and the League of Women Voters have said that they will not include any candidate that doesn’t get more than 10% in a poll, despite the fact that Whitney earned more than 10% of the actual vote in 2006, and did poll at 10% in August.
In addition to applying a 10% polling threshold, WTTW, the local PBS affiliate, has said that debate inclusion is subject to their “editorial judgment”.
“What we’re seeing here is ‘the Chicago Way’ dressed up in a lot of excuses,” said Huckelberry. “These debate organizers need not be held hostage by the threat of losing a major Democratic candidate. If the Democratic candidates want to pull out and miss the opportunity to address to the voters of Illinois, that’s their decision. But the debates should be inclusive of all established political parties, and they should go forward because that’s what the voters deserve.”
The Greens plan to rally at the site of any debate exclusion, starting with today’s Elmhurst College debate.
“They can butcher our names and rig the debates to keep us out, but we’re not backing down,” said Huckelberry.