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October 8, 2010

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.

*** End update.

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.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:00 PM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Candidate Watch 2010


The great hypocracy of minor party candidates on full display. You have 3 of them all claiming to be THE third party. Why are any of them so speicial? Regardless of how you feel, O'Malley and Ehrlich are the two candidates for Governor because they have both had distinguished careers that merited their elevation to this office. The 3 minor candidates appear to represent little more than the fringe. We can't all have a tailor-made candidate to vote for, or there would be no order in society. So we compromise, Gov O'Malley is not everyone's perfect candidate, and neither is Bob Ehrlich, but these two represent the views of the vast majority of Marylanders. It is our civic responsibility to choose between the two.

That's right Josh, let's keep on getting into wars, bailing out fat cat financiers, rewarding unprecidented contributions to campaigns (bribery). That's what we'll have until we begin to ignore mainstream media dismissal of non Republicans and non Democrats.

Have we decided to compromise on only two brands of cola available in Maryland stores? Two hamburger chains? Two makes of car? Why do we welcome more than two options for any product we might possibly wish to consume, except politicians?

Of course, political leaders are nothing like colas or hamburgers. They are much MORE important. So why would you insist on only two choices?

Josh, It's that sort of exclusionary thinking that has confined American politics to a two party system.

Why compromise? To say it's "our civic responsibility to choose between the two" is an attempt at intellectual intimidation. Is there no order in the UK, because as far as I know there are far more than 2 relevant & influential parties there. Vote what you feel, not what you fear.

the First poster is a little confused. It is not our civic duty to pick from just 2 individuals. It is the only two people who recieve alot of money. We have the right to choose anyone to vote for. To often the media forgets that their are other canidates out there. dont be blind sided by the limited amount of money they can raise. If your argument was Valid why did Obama win. He has little or no experience in the goverment but he was able to collect alot of money bases on his race.

These other candidates should be included in the debate. The two party systen in this country is a disgrace. Why should only those candidates with the most money be heard?

"Why are any of them so speicial [sp]?"

All three of them have enough support to be on the ballot with O'Malley and Ehrlich.

The gubernatorial debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters is the "real" debate to attend. It's Tuesday, Oct. 19, 7:30 pm, in the Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College's Takoma Park campus, 7995 Georgia Avenue. For more information, see or call 301-984-9585.

Unlike WJZ-TV and the Baltimore Jewish Council, the LWV serves only the voters, and all of them. Third Party candidates have to work hard and overcome many electoral hurdles to get on the ballot; they deserve to be heard.

The two party system and preferential treatment isn't fare. There could be other qualified candidates who don't have the financial resources or political backing but could be great governors. I don't like it that independents and other parties can't vote in the primary elections. This election process is slanted towards republicans and democrats.

The candidates make a reasonable case and the counterpoint, while having less of a leg to stand on, is reasoned. The two candidates that likely will most likely govern Maryland for the next 4 years shall debate. But what does it represent when other ballot-qualified candidates can simply be ignored in our country, which claims to be the torch of Democracy for the world? In Brazil the Green Party candidate for President surprised the country with enough of a margin to cause a run-off. To say that she might have won had she been dutifully represented in the media is an understatement.

It's sad but true that partisanship drives our political process more than merit, and for other democracies to best our democratic process is pitiful and ironic. We should demand better.

If any news medium that purports to bring the citizens unbiased coverage does not provide equal prime-time air time for a third-party debate they are publicly demonstrating their blatant bias with support for the two major parties.

The only answer is for WJZ-TV to give the next comparable air slot to a debate with the minor candidates and at least provide a 15 minute back and forth exchange with the major party candidates. I suspect the major candidates would cringe at the thought of debating Maria Allwine, a very articulate leader who would publicly speak to both current and former governors accountability to issues of the people. Her government would be one of integrity and openness.

It is the people's loss that she is being excluded from this important debate.

how quickly the homegeniety of ideas ensues mr josh, when you (and aided by ms Bykowicz and Linsky) focus on one aspect of each of these candidates at the expense of hearing their ideas on running the state. Gee, I wonder how we could remedy that, how we could find out their ideas on how to run the state...maybe...with a debate?!?
What is an hour, really in the big scheme of things? Why not hear what these folks are offering us voters? Why not hear why O'malley and Ehrlich think these folks' ideas are bunk (do they?)?
ust sayin...its just an hour

It is our civic responsibility to choose between the two? No, it is our civic responsibility to choose the candidate we feel would best represent our state - whether or not that person conforms to your preconceived views on politics.

I would argue that all of these candidates represent the views of the vast majority of Marylanders except most Marylanders haven't heard of the other 3.

What makes O'Malley and Ehrlich so special either? Based on your comment, it is only because they are Democrat and Republican.

I can't recall where I heard it, but I thought that media like television are required to give equal attention to all candidates running for an office. Leaving them out of a debate because they are "3rd party" candidates is discriminatory. Perhaps a fresh perspective will be good for the debate, and even the office of governor.

I've heard enough from gubernatorial candidates O'Malley, Ehrlich, and Allwine already to know that I'm voting for Allwine. She's easily an improvement over those two guys. Why not treat her as an equal at the debate so that others might come to the same conclusion?

I would love to see ranked voting make it to Maryland. describes it this way: "instant runoff voting (IRV) elects candidates who have majority support, accommodates voters having better choices (alleviating concerns about the dreaded “spoiler effect”) and encourages winning candidates to reach out to more people." North Carolina is adopting instant runoff voting statewide soon -- why not Maryland?

I just got this off of the Baltimore Jewish Council's web site: "The Baltimore Jewish Council is a charitable organization that falls under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and as such is “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” We are a non-partisan non-profit and neither endorse nor oppose any political candidate or party."
How can they be "non-partisan" and eliminate three ballot access candidates? Maybe their tax exempt status should be called to question??

It is dangerous indeed to use "polling" and "time" as an excuse to deny voters their right to hear and see ALL the candidates. I was told earlier by a radio station that if third-party candidates were invited to debates, O'Malley and Ehrlich would not participate. I was told today by a reporter that I don't "poll well" - as if that is a substitute for real reporting. The media influences elections by not doing the job of giving all candidates coverage.

Polling, time, education - they are spin designed to disguise the real reason the two moneyed candidates do not want to debate anyone with real answers that voters might actually vote for - they might lose their jobs!

Well, I for one am disappointed that Eric Knowles will not be debating these 2 "democrats" in this debate. He is wonderful to listen to. I think that the people of Maryland need and deserve to hear from all the candidates that are running. Just because they are lesser known and have less money in their campaign coffers and haven't been governor before doesn't mean that they don't have anything meaningful to say at the podium during a debate. When will we ever be rid of this stupid 2 party system that runs this country? It's time that other candidates have their thoughts and ideas be heard instead of just the democrat and republican ideas. Then perhaps we would vote differently and really have some change we can believe in.

It is dangerous indeed to use "polling" and "time" as an excuse to deny voters their right to hear and see ALL the candidates. I was told earlier by a radio station that if third-party candidates were invited to debates, O'Malley and Ehrlich would not participate. I was told today by a reporter that I don't "poll well" - as if that is a substitute for real reporting. The media influences elections by not doing the job of giving all candidates coverage.

Polling, time, education - they are spin designed to disguise the real reason the two moneyed candidates do not want to debate anyone with real answers that voters might actually vote for - they might lose their jobs!

I posted a comment last night which was "being held for review by the moderator" - where is it?

I would agree with Dr. Mike up above. A 501-C-3 organization should not be setting up barriers to exclude legitimate, ballot-qualified candidates from debates. Their 10% hurdle is totally arbitrary and was chosen deliberately to exclude candidates they don't want to have to deal with, it's as simple as that. In fact, in Ohio, the Socialist Party candidate for Senate, Dan La Botz, is suing over his exclusion from a debate on precisely these 501-C-3, tax-exempt, nonpartisan grounds.

It is difficult to get a gubernatorial candidate on the ballot in Maryland. Once you've done that, it seems to me you've demonstrated enough seriousness to receive automatic inclusion into debates. In any event, the only polls that ought to matter in this situation are ones that simply ask people something along the lines of "should these candidates be included in debates?" ......regardless of whether or not they intend to vote for any particular candidate. Why are voters not given a say in terms of who appears at these allegedly public, nonpartisan events?

Honestly, I have been a Maryland resident under both Ehrlich and O'Malley as governors. Actions speak louder than words and thus, IMHO, a debate between the two of them will not sway my vote at all. Campaign promises don't always lead to action once elected, as we are all painfully aware. However, I would love to see a debate from the other candidates, to get a fresh perspective on the issues. If Ehrlich and O'Malley are such superior candidates, than it won't matter what the others have to say. Are they afraid they might loose votes because citizens would prefer the leadership of another?

To say that the only viable candidates are from the Republican and the Democrat parties, and ye with the most money can buy political spot, I will say this. On November 3, 1998 - even with spending considerably less money than either the Republican or Democrat candidates, the residents of the state of Minnesota agreed with the slogan "Don't vote for politics as usual" and elected the Reform Party Candidate as their Governor. Regardless of your opinion of his effectiveness as Governor, Jesse Venture sure upset the 2 party apple cart.

Maybe that's why Ehrlich and O'Malley are afraid to debate the other candidates. Perhaps their worried that Maryland voters may upset their apple carts as well.

While the individual 3 party candidates may not show up in polls, because voters don't know them, because media doesn't cover them, because media is so poll-driven and doesn't do independent research, fact is if you ask the public if they agree with specific positions of Greens, Libetarians or the paleoconservative(e.g Pat Buchanan conservatives) constitution party, ten percent of the public in MD will agree with one or more positions of each of those parties. For example, neither Ehrlich or O'Malley says anything or much about
how unfair competition from China wrecks our economy, illegal immigtration, or whether private, as opposed to public charter schools, should be the norm, with public support.

I wanted to hear from all parties running for govenor. Nothing really different between O'Malley and Erlich. I want change.

In a true democracy all candidates on a ballot should have the ability to debate each other in a forum. The voters of this state deserve an opportunity to hear all candidates on the gubernatorial ballot share their platforms and explain their differences. It is not fair to exclude these three independent candidates. It is also rather insulting to assume that voters in this state are not intelligent enough to make up their own minds- we don't need selective organizations and news media to filter only what they think we're capable of handling. If there are 5 people running, then all five should be invited to the same forums.

Umm, Josh, I don't really see how it's my civic responsibility to choose O'Malley or Ehrlich, without giving the other candidates consideration. I think it's my responsibility to vote for who I think will the best choice for Governer, and it's hard to do that without having all the facts. While I understand that no candidate is perfect, I think Ehrlich and O'Malley made mistakes that shouldn't be overlooked.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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