In Texas, Rick Perry has a longstanding policy of refusing to debate his Democratic opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White. Already, the League of Women Voters hosted a debate between White and the Libertarian Kathie Glass when Perry declined. Now, the same situation may emerge again. From the Austin American-Statesman:
The newspapers, along with Austin public television station KLRU, will deliver a letter to Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White today inviting them to a debate at the KLRU studios on the University of Texas campus at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19.
Perry has said he will not accept debate invitations until White agrees to release his income tax returns from his time as deputy energy secretary in the mid-1990s.
“If only one candidate shows up for the debate, we will discuss issues with him alone for the entire hour,” says the letter, which is signed by the editors of the American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, as well as Bill Stotesbery, the CEO of KLRU.
Embry cites some legal trouble with airing a one-man debate for an hour on television. This would easily be avoided with the inclusion of the third party candidates on the ballot, but a standing policy may prevent that.
The sponsors will invite all candidates who register at least 10 percent support in a September poll conducted by the newspapers, meaning minor-party candidates are not likely to participate.
Deb Shafto, the Green Party candidate, is unlikely to reach the threshold. The Texas Greens’ image with state Democrats has likely been eroded by the negative press connected with the party’s ballot access drive, and Shafto has not run her campaign in the media spotlight.
Glass, on the other hand, could come closer to reaching the 10% necessary. The 2006 gubernatorial election illustrated major discontent with incumbent Governor Rick Perry with strong showings by Independents Kinky Friedman and Carol Keeton Strayhorn. In addition, Debra Medina’s run in the Republican primary energized a libertarian-conservative base that Glass could adopt as her own (Medina, for her part, has not decided if she will endorse Glass or simply refuse to vote in the gubernatorial race).
Finally, Glass has been waging a vigorous campaign, criss-crossing the state, conducting interviews, and even launching a small ad buy on Amarillo talk radio. While 10% may be tough to reach, one may wonder if the news outlets will allow Glass into the debate if she approaches this threshold with a high single digit performance.