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.

4 responses to On the heels of “WhiteyGate”, Rich Whitney shut out of Chicago debates

  1. I think there is little doubt that the Illinois Dems do not want Whitney or Jones in the debates, I would assume because they think they will “steal votes”. That being said in the Governor’s race even if what the Democrats said was true it probably wont make a difference at this point.

  2. It wasn’t until I ventured over to Huffington Post that I realized how devious the Democrats are being toward the voters that proclaim support for Jones and Whitney. Not only are they fear-mongering that tired old line “a vote for a third party is a vote for a Republican” but they’re also mocking anyone supporting Whitney that they’re throwing their votes away. I’ve seen commenters BEG people to vote for Quinn.

    Talk about lack of class. I can’t say I’m not surprised Democrats are doing nefarious things to keep their competition out of the media. Shameful.

    If anything it sends me permanently into the Green Party camp.

  3. I am not an Illinois native, but during my five years living in Illinois, I have come to believe that Chicago is indeed the Windy City of Politics, of which is currently fanned by the turbines of Madiganites. It’s shameful that I have Chicago friends who plan to vote for Quinn b/c they regard incompetence and corruption among Democrat leaders a tradition and then I have other friends who simply like the idea of keeping concealed weapons a god-given right and therefore support Brady. Whitney is the real deal. He offers solutions in his budget plan and his ideas are worth trying. And for pro-Brady concealed weapon enthusiasts, Whitney supports your god-given right, but with caveats that promote safety and require evidence of training. If citizens should pass a competency test to know how to drive a car safely on public roads, then I think it’s more than fair to require the same for future gun owners. I am disappointed in Chicago’s media debates which are excluding a major “established political party” from sharing their important views to the public. It’s a shame that lil’ ol Carbondale ( WSIU) knows more about fair and democratic election coverage than Chicago’s news networks.

  4. If people you know are on the fence about voting for Whitney, tell them that if Whitney gets 5% the Illinois Green Party will stay on the ballot and keep challenging corrupt politicians in both establishment parties at all levels. Some may be reluctant to vote for him because they think he can’t win, especially because of the media blackout, but his campaign is also about building an independent progressive alternative for the future.