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Hudson’s Burke: Televised political debates must stop excluding third party candidates

Robert Burke. Hudson Star Observer photo.

Libertarian candidate for governor Robert Burke of Hudson said Tuesday, July 8, that he will try to address exclusions and inequities of public access to Libertarian candidates running for office. 

The effort began last week with a letter to the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association (WBA) suggesting a new and simple criterion for inclusion in the debates -- ask the voters whom they want to see. 

Burke believes exclusion of candidates from the debates and polls may result in illegal, in-kind donations associated with the debate system as it stands.

“The pollsters and WBA can continue to act like I won't impact the race but, based on the current neck and neck 45% polling limited to the red and blue team candidates, my guess is there could be a very big surprise November 4th,” Burke said.  “Like it or not I’m on the ballot, and I will impact the race.”

The Libertarian’s campaign submitted a complaint on July 4 to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. It asserted that a debate without Libertarian Candidate Robert Burke and People’s Party Candidate Dennis Fehr amounts to a commercial for the two-party system candidates in amounts exceeding any and all state or federal election limits.

Andy Craig, Libertarian candidate for secretary of state, submitted the complaint on behalf of the Burke campaign:

“The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association's board is clearly populated by supporters of the two party paradigm.  We don’t expect them to create useful and realistic criteria for inclusion such as ballot access and ability to present a coherent message to the voters.  So our hope is they will instead use the simple criteria: what parties and candidates do the people want to hear from?  After all, that is the stated purpose of the debates according to the WBA's letter.”

In a June 25 letter released to Burke’s campaign, David Sanks of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, the sponsoring organization of previous televised gubernatorial debates, said plainly the goal is to educate voters.

"It is our goal to provide a forum to educate voters on the issues in the campaign.  It is not our responsibility, however, to elevate a candidate or provide a platform for a candidate or political party who is seeking publicity and exposure through the debate to introduce them and their issues to the voters of Wisconsin."

Burke says he’s running a “grassroots, donation-less campaign,” focusing on bringing together disaffected voting segments in Wisconsin, such as marijuana reformers, the heavily unemployed youth vote, and other pro-liberty groups. 

“If I’m elected governor, it will be because I have better ideas, not more TV commercials,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to question that I was bought by anyone, so I reject the fundraising premise. I raised eleven candidates on the ballot, that’s the fundraising of real leadership.”

The Libertarian Party of Wisconsin bills itself as the state's third largest political party with twelve candidates running for office this fall.

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