Third-party gov candidates demand to be in debate
Updated 5 p.m.
Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Art Abramson has issued this statement: Due to the significant time limitations inherent in the televised format of the upcoming debate, as well as the desire to maximize the educational value of the event, The Baltimore Jewish Council has determined that participation in a debate should be limited to those candidates who have received support from at least 10 percent of the voters in any major, independent poll conducted within 30 days prior to the debate. The Baltimore Jewish Council does not endorse any candidate for public office.
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The three minor party candidates for governor are accusing WJZ-TV and the Baltimore Jewish Council, sponsors of a debate Monday between Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., of "electioneering," by excluding them.
Green Party candidate Maria Allwine, Libertarian Party candidate Susan Gaztanaga and Constitution Party candidate Eric Knowles have written several letters this week to the television station, demanding to be part of what could be the only gubernatorial debate this year.
The hourlong back-and-forth between O'Malley and Ehrlich, who appear to be in a tight race for governor, will be taped at WJZ at 10 a.m. Monday and will air at 7 that night.
But the third-party candidates wrote this morning that the debate sponsors "have engaged in electioneering for the Democratic and Republican candidates by refusing to present ALL the candidates running in the November general election."
The candidates' letter was addressed to WJZ General Manager Jay Newman and Jewish Council Executive Director Arthur C. Abramson. And it was forwarded to the Maryland State Board of Elections and the Federal Communications Commission.
A letter earlier this week expressed laid out the candidates' frustrations: "We are, to put it mildly, dismayed, offended and angered that you have deliberately chosen to exclude us from this debate."
Whether to include third-party candidate in debates and other forums is a question that emerges each election season. In the 2006 race, they were not included in the two televised Ehrlich-O'Malley debates.
Sun colleague Annie Linskey wrote about the lesser-known gubernatorial hopefuls in June. From that story:
Allwine, 57, the Green Party candidate, is making her fourth bid for office, though it is her first run for governor. She received 17 percent of the vote when she ran for Baltimore City Council president in 2007. She has worked as a legal secretary and has no experience as an elected official — but plenty in rankling them.
Maria Allwine, a Baltimore resident and prolific letter writer to newspapers, has protested against the Iraq war, sometimes standing on street corners in a black robe to evoke the infamous image of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.
"Our state is in dire straits. They talk about closing the budget deficit, but they won't close corporate tax loopholes," she said in reply to a question last week about why she is running for governor. "They just won't do it. They want to be a friend of business at the expense of ordinary people."
Maryland's tiny Constitution Party will be represented by Annapolis bartender Eric D. Knowles, 32, who said he is running because he does not believe that O'Malley is upholding the U.S. Constitution. Asked for an example, he said: "I can't come up with one offhand."
Susan J. Gaztanaga, who lives in Baltimore and is running as a Libertarian, did not reply to several e-mails sent last week to the address she listed on her campaign filing papers. She left no phone number. An occasional writer of letters to the editor, she protested an increase in the city's income tax and expressed dismay over the government's handling of the deadly showdown in 1993 between federal agents and the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas.
The next day, after Linskey heard from the candidate, she blogged this: Gaztanaga has a concise three point plan: eliminating the state sales tax; order the Maryland National Guard back to Maryland; and allow anyone without a criminal record to carry a handgun.