Broadcasters exclude Libertarian from U.S. Senate candidate debate

by Brian Irving

After participating in the first two U.S. Senate candidate debates, Libertarian Mike Beitler is being snubbed by the N.C. Association of Broadcasters for the debates they are sponsoring in October 11 and 23.

The Beitler campaign first learned about the debates in late August from media reports. A campaign spokesman said that the association did not respond to repeated telephone calls and e-mail messages regarding the debate.

“We can only assume that the rumors are correct and that the NCAB is cash strapped and simply does not have the equipment necessary to host another candidate,” said Michael Shanklin, campaign manager. “Mike Beitler is willing to bring his own mic to this event. If necessary we will build our own podium as well.”

Association president Tim Morrisey told the Associated Press that Beitler hadn’t been invited because surveys fail to show him with at least 10 percent support. According to sources, the debate criteria is based on only one poll, conducted by Elon University, which does not restrict itself to registered voters. The sources said that Beitler might be included if he polls over 10 percent in a poll due out next week.

Libertarian state chair Barbara Howe called the debate rules arbitrary and unfair, especially since most polls do not include the Libertarian candidate as one of their choices.

“Often polling doesn’t even include the Libertarian candidate, so it’s impossible for a Libertarian candidate to poll any numbers at all,” she said. “It’s a disservice to the voters of North Carolina not to include all the ballot-qualified candidates.”

It is unclear exactly which Elon poll the NCAB is using as a criteria for debate inclusion. Morrisey did not respond to a request for information. The most recent poll of U.S. Senate candidates on the university’s website was published March 22. Beitler was included, but his name was incorrect. The question asked respondents to rate all the candidates in the Democratic and Republican primary on a scale of one to ten.

“The broadcasters association is not interested in informing the public,” Howe said. “It’s about protecting the interests of broadcasters.”

Beitler will participate in a televised debate October 13 sponsored by the N.C. League of Women Voters.

“We believe we’re being treated unfairly, but we are not surprised. Burr and Marshall are both worried about how many votes we are taking from them,” Beitler said. He said that if the association’s educational foundation, which is sponsoring the event, has tax-exempt status, they should lose it. “They are not educational, they are clearly political,” he said.

In 2004, Howe filed a complaint with the FCC against WRAL-TV for failing to include her in a gubernatorial debate. The FCC has never issued a ruling. The 2008 Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dr. Mike Munger was included in only one of the three televised debates in that campaign, which was also sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Both the Burr and Marshall campaigns have said they believe it’s unfair not to include Beitler in all the debates, but neither campaign is taking any action to support including the Libertarian candidate.

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