Maryland Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Flowers was forcibly prevented from participating in a candidate forum sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council and Goucher College on Monday evening. Flowers, who had been extended invitations to the debate twice by the organizers, was abruptly disinvited without notice two weeks before the event.
When the candidates were asked to take the stage, Flowers stepped up to remind the BJC that her exclusion was in violation of IRS regulations that require non-profit organizations to be non-partisan. She said, “Many times during the first half of the forum, the moderator and Republican candidates emphasized that in this political moment voters are fed up with the status quo and are looking for alternatives. Yet, the one candidate who was invited and provides an alternative to the the two party system was excluded. I was ready to answer the questions but I was not given the chance. I wanted to participate in this debate, not protest it.”
Flowers was invited to the event on January 7 and accepted that same day. At that time, Sarah Mersky, the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Director of Government Relations, said the event would be “a wonderful opportunity for Baltimore and the Jewish community to get to know you better.” The BJC also later Dr. Flowers know of a postponement of the original February date, indicating that they still wanted her to take part. However, on March 11, Flowers received a terse message from Mersky disinviting her, saying the event would be limited “to contested primary candidates only” — a late change in the rules. The Flowers campaign said in reply that the IRS “has issued regulations for non-profit organizations requiring them to be non-partisan and inclusive” and that “in recent debates in the Baltimore area, non-profit organizations that initially excluded Green Party candidates decided to reverse their decision when their lawyers looked at the law.”
In phone conversations and personal meetings with the Flowers campaign, the BJC stated that the event was limited to candidates polling at least five in polls, a new requirement that had never been mentioned before to the Flowers campaign. Flowers pointed out that there have been no polls of Green Party candidates, making it impossible for the BJC to know that Flowers does not reach the polling threshold. Flowers asserted that her level of support in the Green Party is well above five percent.
Under Maryland law, Green Party candidates are not permitted to appear on the ballot printed by the state and distributed to voters during the state-funded primary election. “This is one of many ways the two wealth-based parties create an unfair electoral system for those who challenge them,” said Flowers. The Green Party is holding a self-funded primary election that any person registered to vote and affiliated with the Green Party may participate in. By rule, all Green Party nominations are contested.