OETA Comments On Debate Rules Which Exclude Half The Candidates For Governor

Recently, we learned that Oklahoma’s only Governors debate was going to exclude the two Independent candidates for governor, Richard Prawzienski and Kimberly Willis. We reached out to the League of Women Voters and learned that they were not invited because they did not meet the criteria for debate inclusion. At the time, we had reached out to OETA, one of the other sponsors, seeking their comments. They have responded with their comments and the rules for inclusion.

In general, OETA Executive Director Dan Schiedel stated they were not included because they did not meet the guidelines set out in the rules.

At this time, it appears that Mr. Prawdzienski and Ms. Willis do not satisfy the criteria and therefore, neither candidate was invited to the Gubernatorial Debate scheduled for October 2, 2014 at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

He has also stated that if the situation changes between now and the debate, they could receive an invitation.

If factors change that allow Mr. Prawdzienski and/or Ms. Willis to satisfy the terms of the OETA Debate Criteria and Participation Policy (and criteria set forth by the debate partners) in advance of October 2 , we will re-evaluate the matter.

But what exactly are the rules regulating who get’s to be included? For that, Mr. Schiedel provided a link to those rules. So let’s take a look. Starting with the opening paragraph introducing the rules, emphasis mine:

OETA-The Oklahoma Network has a long tradition of encouraging statewide coverage of debates and other forums involving governmental leaders and candidates for elected office. We follow all rules and regulations mandated by the Federal Communications Commission. As far as debates and other similar forums (“the debates”), we must be sensitive to the number of participants. Therefore, OETA-The Oklahoma Network (“OETA”) reserves the right, in the public interest, to limit participants and the manner of the production in accordance with this OETA Debate Criteria and Participation Policy.

In this, OETA admits that the rules are designed to limit the number of participants in any debate they sponsor. Why? For the public interest of course. Exactly what that means is probably up to debate itself. One would think that the public interest would be better served by including all candidates for the office featured.

Let’s move on and look at how they determine which candidates are included.

To be considered for inclusion in OETA-produced and broadcast debates, the candidate must satisfy the following criteria:

Must be a legally qualified candidate that is qualified for a place on the ballot;

I don’t think that any reasonable person would think that Richard Prawdzienski or Kimberly Willis fail this requirement. They are both ballot qualified and will be on the ballot. So let’s see what else might be preventing their invitation.

When working with a debate “partner” or other organization integral to the presentation of the debate (“presentation organization”), the candidate must satisfy the criteria of the “partner” or “presentation organization”;

This rule grants any participating debate sponsor to block inclusion of a candidate for any reason. The sponsor doesn’t seem to be required to provide any justification, simply that they don’t want that candidate to appear. Why this is even a rule, is anyone’s guess. With three separate sponsors with their own agendas it would be easy for any one of them to simply say “We don’t want candidate X at the debate” and OETA would simply agree.

Must show at least 5% support in any available legitimate, professionally-conducted public opinion surveys (polls) by an independent political pollster

This next criteria is often the most sticking point for any debate. In this rule, the debate organizers are shifting the burden for exclusion onto a third party they have no control over. If that third party conducting the poll wishes to exclude any candidate, of which we have already shown they are, then the debate organizer can simply wash their hands of any blame. This particular rule is designed for the sole purpose of excluding any candidate that is not a member of the two duopoly parties as most professional pollsters only include duopoly party candidates in their polls.

Must have demonstrated a serious and responsible candidacy by taking certain actions necessary for the undertaking of a statewide or district campaign which shall be evaluated in their totality

Next is a set of rules that may seem objective but are simply a subjective means of determining the validity of any candidate. They are a set of rules that if any single point is not met, the candidate is deemed “not serious” and thus excluded from the debate. So what are these guidelines? There are quite a few, but I will list some of the most interesting ones.

Whether the candidate has organized and implemented a statewide or district-wide fundraising program and can demonstrate raising of campaign contributions of at least $10,000.00 exclusive of funding from the candidate’s own resources

Whether there is a campaign office, outside of the candidate’s home, and a campaign telephone number and e-mail address

Whether the candidate is preparing for or conducting statewide or district-wide media operations

Whether the candidate has been included in campaign coverage of other television news organizations

Whether the candidate has received more than incidental press coverage (e.g. identification as a candidate) in at least five (5) bona fide professional print, online, radio, television or cable television news stories

What is clear in this set of criteria is the continued reliance on third parties to effectively veto the inclusion of any candidates. While the first two I listed seem to be aimed at the work done by the candidate him/herself, The last two simply cede control over the debate roster to parties outside the control of the debate organizers.

If you look at these rules in totality, if a candidate is ballot qualified, raises significant sums of money, attends public events, distributes campaign literature, but is excluded from polls, ignored by the press, or any one of the debate organizers doesn’t like him or her, then they are excluded. In the end, these rules are designed from the onset to exclude Independent and alternative party candidates.

One final note, these rules were initially adopted in September of 2002. In that year, Independent Gary L. Richardson received just over 14% of the vote. Democrat Brad Henry eeked out a victory of less than 1 percentage point. I am merely speculating here but perhaps the strength of the Richardson campaign at the time was one of the primary drivers of this change. In comparison, the Commission for Presidential Debates revamped its rules in the wake of Ross Perot’s successful third party run for President that resulted in a victory for Bill Clinton over George Bush in 1992.

Despite all that and what these rules state, the exclusion of any candidate in a debate or forum for any office is a disservice to the voters of Oklahoma. By denying those candidates a spot at the debate, the organizers are denying the people of Oklahoma a fair, free and equal election.

We would recommend that everyone who reads this to contact OETA Executive Direct Dan Schiedel, the League of Women Voters and Oklahoma State University to demand that all candidates for Governor be invited to the debates regardless of these rules.

Oklahoma’s Only Governor Debate Excludes Half The Candidates

Earlier this week, the Joe Dorman campaign sent out a press release demanding more than a single debate from the Fallin campaign. In this press release, it is revealed that OSU, OETA and the League of Women Voters have teamed up to host the only debate in October.

Based on this, press release alone, it was unclear if the two Independent candidates, Richard Prawdzienski and Kimberly Willis, were going to attend, so I reached out to two of the hosts of the debate OETA and the League. I am still waiting to hear back from OETA but I have learned some troubling news from the League.

When asked if the Independent candidates were going to attend, this was the response.

The League, working with OETA and OSU, relied on available polling data to select the candidates for this televised debate. Our national organization’s best practices sets out the use of polling data as one of the tools for selecting candidates for inclusion in a forum or debate. We recognize the problem of independent candidates at times being excluded from polling.

You will notice that they do recognize the weakness in their decision to exclude half the candidates, yet they are unwilling to do anything about it.  This despite the admission that they want fairer and equal access to ballots in Oklahoma.

A number of our LWVOK members are working to find ways to open ballot access to third party candidates. It is very difficult, as you probably know, to get a third party recognized in Oklahoma.

We will have to follow the guidelines that have been established for this debate, but would welcome your support in working to make it easier to get third parties certified in Oklahoma.

It is unfortunate that the League does not wish to do one of the most basic and simple things that could be done to this end and invite all ballot qualified candidates to the debate. Without access to the debates, the election is stacked against Independent candidates. If they cannot get to the debates, people don’t hear about them. If people don’t hear about them, they are excluded from polls. If they are excluded from polls, they are excluded from debates. It is a vicious cycle.

So with the failure to include either Independent candidate in recent polls and the use of such flawed polling to determine the debate attendees, this debate will be far from fair and balanced.

We will update you if we hear back from OETA.

Rasmussen Election Poll Shows Fallin At 45%, Fails To Name Both Independent Candidates

As the Oklahoma Governors Race hits full gear following Fallin’s primary win, Rasmussen held the first of many polls of potential voters. This poll found that Oklahomans are nearly evenly split between the two duopoly party candidates Mary Fallin and Joe Dorman. The poll found that 45% of potential voters favored Fallin while 40% favored Dorman. Of the remaining 15%, 7% favored “someone else” and the other 8% were still undecided.  This electoral favorability of Fallin is also reflected in the 49% of people who approve of the job she is doing in office.

However, this poll is troubling in one major sense. The poll neglected to mention either of the Independent candidates running for governor, Richard Prawdzienski and Kimberly Willis. The act of naming only the major party candidates is rampant through polling services across the country, so it really isn’t a surprise to see it happen here. However, this practice is detrimental to the campaigns of minor party and independent candidates.

Many debate organizers rely heavily on poll data to determine who should be invited to polls. In many debates, this results in only the two major party candidates being in attendance. Even if a poll does include all candidates, the debate organizers will often select only those polls that meet their desired results.

I have reached out to both Independent candidates for comments on this poll. While Kimberly Willis has yet to respond, Richard Prawdzienski had this to say.

A couple Republicans told me don’t waste my time running because I can’t beat Fallin. (Historically incumbents win, also because Oklahoma is a Red state and will vote Republican. One told me that Fallin will win with 68% of the vote, Fallin’s campaign has a million dollars, she can easily get more.) Anyways, I put my $1500 dollars down and am running against her. Win or lose my message will be heard. If I can prevent both the R or D from getting more than 49% my message would be heard around the nation.

If this poll is any indication, Prawdzienski is well on his way to prevent either candidate from winning with a majority of votes. The last time an Independent candidate ran for governor, Gary L. Richardson pulled 14.12% of the vote. The result was that Brad Henry (D) won the election with 43.27% of the vote and a margin of victory of 0.66% over Steve M. Largent (R).

We would hope that future polls would be more inclusive to all candidates in the various elections across the state. We have requested comment from the Rasmussen organizers and are awaiting a response.

Richard Prawdzienski Announces Independent Bid For Governor’s Seat

Richard PrawdzienskiOklahoma has its first Independent candidate for Governor for the 2014 election. Yesterday, Richard Prawdzienski announced his intent to run for governor.

Richard is a former chair of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party and has been active member of the effort to reform Oklahoma’s ballot access laws.

He has been a candidate for office before, in 2010 as an Independent candidate for Lt. Governor and in 2012 as an Independent for the State Senate seat for Edmond.

Along with his campaign for Governor, Richard is looking for others to run along side him this year.

Richard Prawdzienski, a former OKLP Chair, recently announced he will file for Governor and is building a Liberty Caucus of Republicans, Democrats and Independents to file for their Senate or House District.

Oklahoma has not had an Independent candidate for Governor since 2002. In that race, Gary Richardson ran as an Independent and earned 14.1% of the vote. We welcome a full slate of candidates in the governor election this year.

We are confident that Richard will make ballot access reform a priority in his campaign as well as his term in office if he wins the election.

RJ Harris Drops Out Of Governor Race

RJ HarrisRJ Harris was the first candidate for Governor to challenge Mary Fallin and seek the nomination of the Democratic party. He came in strong with a number of views on ballot access reform and election freedom that we liked. Unfortunately, he has decided to drop out of the race. Instead, he has decided to endorse Representative Joe Dorman for Governor.

We’ve got a candidate here in Joe that, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue, if I wasn’t convinced that he wasn’t serious about taking some of these issues head-on then I wouldn’t be doing this.

This leaves only three people left in the governor race, Incumbent Mary Fallin, Republican challenger Randy Brogdon, and Democratic challenger Joe Dorman. Of the three, Brogdon has the strongest history as friendly to ballot access reform, having authored strong ballot access reform legislation. Representative Joe Dorman has voted in favor of every ballot access reform bill to come to a vote.


Tracey J Williamson Announces Intent To Run For Governor

Tracey J WilliamsonWe have another contender for the office of Governor. Since October of last year we have had 4 people, including incumbent Mary Fallin, join the race for Oklahoma’s next Governor. We now have a fifth candidate.

Tracey J Williamson has announced her intent to run. Running for office as a citizen candidate, Tracey made her announcement as follows:

Can an ordinary citizen run for governor ? Why shouldn’t they ? The slick politicians and lawyers are not leading Oklahoma in a positive direction. It is very clear they are self serving and only seeking re-election or other political goals by pandering to special interests. We need a positive change and perhaps that should come from one of us, not one of them.

Until we see a viable candidate that is not a business as usual , typical politician, I will seek that position.

In a video update, Tracey explains her political affiliation. She has been a registered Republican but considers herself a Libertarian. She explains that she intends to run as a Democrat. However, it was not immediately clear on whether she is currently registered as a Democrat. Oklahoma Statute requires that anyone seeking office be a registered member of the party they wish to run under for at least six months prior to the filing period. So, if she is not a registered Democrat as of the first week of October, she would ineligible to run as a Democrat. We have asked for clarification on this matter.

The video also contains her thoughts on a few issues, particularly storm shelters in schools, horse slaughter and prison reform. When asked about her position on Ballot Access Reform, she had this to say:

I am for ballot reform, absolutely. Everyone should have a candidate they feel represents their thinking. It should not be that hard to make this a reality.

We welcome any challenger that would make Ballot Access Reform an issue in the 2014 election and look forward to watching Tracey’s bid the for the governor seat. As we gain more information, we will let you know.

Randy Brogdon Announces His Campaign For Governor

Randy BrogdonThe governor’race is really starting to pick up steam in Oklahoma. So far we have had Mary Fallin (R), RJ Harris (D) and Joe Dorman (D) announce their campaigns. However, new candidates have not stopped announcing their intent. Over Christmas, Randy Brogdon, former State Senator and primary challenger for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2010, has announced his plans to run for governor against Mary Fallin again in 2014.

This week, I am filing the necessary paperwork to challenge Mary Fallin for the Republican nomination for Governor of Oklahoma. In the coming months, I will be making my case to Republican primary voters why I believe Constitutional Conservative leadership is needed in the Governor’s office.

His announcement comes under the ideals that government has gotten too big and violates our liberties.

Government is too big and too powerful and we all know it. It spends too much, borrows too much, taxes too much, regulates too much and snoops too much. We are in the fight of our lives for liberty, and I feel morally obligated to lead that fight on behalf of Oklahoma families.

My promise as governor is to protect Oklahoma families from the overreach of federal and state government and to restore your God given unalienable rights of life, liberty and property.

At this time it is unclear how that translates to electoral freedom, particularly that of ballot access reform. There were no Ballot Access Reform bills put to a vote while Brogdon was in the State Senate and thus no vote history for him. He does not currently have any position statements on his campaign site. Yet, if he wants to be consistent with the idea that government regulates too much and wants to restore liberty to the people, then he should support ballot access reform.

After further research on the topic of Brogdon’s position on Ballot Access Reform, I found some evidence that I overlooked. While no ballot access bills came to a vote while Brogdon was in office, he did sponsor a bill, SB 28, in 2007 that would have reduced the current 5% requirement to a flat 5,000 signatures to form a new party. The bill also reduced the current 10% vote test for party retention to 1%. Additionally, Brogdon was the Senate author of HB1072 in 2009. This bill was considerably weaker than his 2007 bill as it only reduced the number of signatures need to 3% of the last Gubernatorial election and left untouched the 10% vote test. The sponsorship of the strong reform bill, SB28, even though it did not get a vote in either house, puts Brogdon up as a top candidate for ballot access reform.

We have contacted his campaign about this issue and will post again if we get a response.

Representative Joe Dorman Announces Plans To Run For Governor

Representative Joe DormanYesterday, Representative Joe Dorman, Democrat District 65, announced his plans to run for governor against current Democratic Challenger RJ Harris and incumbent Governor Mary Fallin. Rep. Dorman is best known lately for his efforts to help get a ballot initiative in front of voters which would create a fund for the installation of storm shelters in public schools. Rep. Dorman is also term limited at the end of this session.

We have reached out to Rep. Dorman about his views on ballot access reform and are awaiting his response. However we have look at his voting history on a couple of past bills.

In 2009, HB 1072 reached the House Floor for a vote. While the bill was introduced to revert the state back to that 5,000 signature requirement, the House received an amended bill that simply struck the Presidential races from the 5% calculations. Rep. Dorman voted in favor of this modified bill.

In 2011, HB1058 reached the house Floor for a vote as well. This bill was also amended from its original language calling for a 5,000 signature threshold to a 22,500 signature threshold. This bill would have greatly improved Oklahoma’s strict ballot access regulations. Rep. Dorman also voted in favor of this modified bill.

Based on these two votes, it would not be hard to say that he would support HB2134 or SB668 if either one were to come to a vote in the 2014 Legislative Session. If neither HB2134 nor SB 668 come to a vote this year, the question becomes, would he support such a bill if it came across his desk as Governor? Would he passively support such a bill or would he be instrumental in getting it passed?

We will keep you advised of his comments on this topic.

RJ Harris Announces Intent To Run For Governor As Democratic Candidate

RJ HarrisEarlier today, RJ Harris announced his intent to run for governor as the Democratic candidate. News reports had been circulating stating that the Democratic Party has not put forth a candidate for Governor as of yet. In response to an article in the Washington Post about Libertarian Democrats, RJ Harris wrote on Facebook:

I will rise to this challenge and I hope you will rise with me. It is official; I am forming a campaign to run for the Oklahoma Democrat Party’s nomination for Governor. Oklahoma Constitutional Conservatives; it is time to put our principles for freedom ahead of party politics, it’s time to fight for LIBERTY. Continue reading

Governor Mary Fallin Has Made Moves Toward A Reelection Bid; Who Will Oppose Her?

Governor Mary FallinWhile Governor Mary Fallin has not officially announced her reelection campaign, she is plenty busy putting plans in motion. According to NewsOK, she is busy fundraising for her unannounced campaign and raising awareness of her record as governor for the last 3 years.

I haven’t set a specific date to kick off a re-election announcement, but I have been having some fundraisers across the state and we do have a campaign website up along with sending updated emails out to our current supporters.

That website is up and running and is full of information about her record and her plans. So even though she is not currently openly running, she is still working hard on that reelection campaign.

But what about her challengers? Are there any takers on who will oppose her in the coming 2014 election? Not according to anyone in the Democratic or Republican parties. Continue reading