Governor’s debate exclusionary

There used to be an old joke about early Ford cars. It said: “You can have any color you want so long as it’s black.” A similar situation seems to prevail in Illinois when it comes to candidates’ views.

Monday night’s highly-hyped debate by gubernatorial candidates did not include any third party candidates. Only the official candidates of the Republican and Democrat parties were allowed to air their stands on issues.

Nobody has heard from Independent candidate Marisellis Brown. Uncommitted voters and his supporters ask, “What’s he about? Don’t we deserve to know his views?”

Although he showed up, Libertarian candidate Cal Skinner was not allowed on the stage at the Coronado Theater. He had to stand outside beforehand, passing out leaflets.

What did he think about not being invited to the ball?

“If the Illinois media moguls had been sponsoring in 1858, there wouldn’t have been any Lincoln-Douglas debates,” Skinner said. “I’m not comparing myself to Lincoln,” he added, “but he was from a new party too.” The Republicans were a fledgling group at that time.

Skinner added: “In civics class we were taught that a debate is a clash of ideas. You can’t do that in Illinois. A third party is included in debates in 23 states in this country. Illinois is one of the most corrupt states in the country. I have more experience than he (Blagojevich) and Jim (Ryan) put together. I started as a budget examiner. I know how to attack budgets.”

The Statewide Housing Action Coalition says it has been pushing Ryan and Blagojevich to state their intentions with regard to the housing crisis in Illinois. Neither one has taken a stand. The coalition said a minimum wage worker must put in 82 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent of $551 per month.

The subject was not broached at the debate, either by the candidates or the panel of questioners. Skinner’s reply was: “I think it’s almost too big for state government to handle. Housing is generally attacked by the federal government. California, in 1978, with Proposition 13, decided to freeze assessments. We could do that. Of course, the local tax eaters would scream bloody murder.”

That’s a very small sampling of Skinner’s comments. So why wasn’t he part of the “debate”?

Again, where was Brown?

Yes, the Winnebago County sample ballot form lists four candidates for governor Ryan, Blagojevch, Skinner and Brown.

Wally Haas, editor of the Rockford Register Star’s editorial page, said: “There were five candidates for governor. Where do you draw the line? We had to draw the line somewhere. There were only two real candidates—Ryan and Blagojevich. Those were the candidates we targeted.”

TRRT: Was that the sole criterion?

Haas: “That was it.”

Gwen Kinsey, general manager of WTVO-TV, said: “The whole process began back in March. At that time, I don’t think Cal Skinner was even a candidate. It took a number of months to put the logistics together. The League of Women Voters was working with us. We looked at their numbers. I think he (Skinner) had 5 percent (support) at that time. We determined we would go forward with the viable candidates. It was a collective decision; there was no pressure from the candidates.”

Kinsey said the poll numbers were the only criterion used to decide who would debate.

A spokesman for the Blagojevich campaign, Douglas Scofield, said: “The sponsoring organizations, as well as the candidates, made the decision that there needed to be a threshold of support. I believe the sponsoring organizations felt most comfortable with that.”

TRRT: Does that make the other candidates’ views less worthwhile?

Scofield: “I don’t know that they are less worthwhile. I think they wanted to make sure that anybody else included in the debate was responded to by voters.”

Jane McAfee, vice-president of the League of Women Voters, said her organization did not sponsor the debate. “We were not a sponsor for that reason,” she said. “I was on the committee, and they overwhelmingly decided not to invite the other candidates.”

McAfee said the League was not invited to be a debate sponsor and that the state organization advised them not to participate in that way. “We would not hold a debate unless all candidates were invited,” she said. “I’m not sure, but I think that’s a national position (of the League).”

Upon learning of her assertion, Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times, said: “I was at the debate. I heard it announced from the stage, and I saw their logo on the sign.” Look for his editorial on the debate next week.

Contacted again, McAfee said: “We were not a sponsor. I listened very carefully and they said ‘assisted by the League.’ We were not a sponsor. Some of them could have gotten it mixed up. Our logo was on the sign.”

The Ryan campaign did not respond to inquiries from The Rock River Times.

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