This morning’s debate between Pat Quinn and Bill Brady inside the Union League Club, was preceded by another debate, on the sidewalk outside the Union League club. It was a debate over who should be debating.
Supporters of Green Party candidate Rich Whitney picketed the event with signs reading “Let Rich Debate.”
“The ULCC’s policy for a general election candidate involving statewide offices requires candidates to demonstrate support of at least 10% in an independent , statewide poll conducted in reasonable proximity to the forum,” Kohn said, according to Green Party officials. “As the most recent statewide polls in the Illinois Governor's race (conducted by Rasmussen Report, September 12; Chicago Tribune , September 3) show Mr. Whitney polling at 4% and 2%, respectively, Mr. Whitney does not meet this criterion and is, therefore, ineligible to participate in the forum.”
But Whitney did receive 10 percent in the only poll that really counts: the 2006 governor’s race.
The 2006 governor's race established the Greens as a full-fledged party in Illinois, guaranteeing them ballot access for this election. It should also guarantee them a seat at the debates. A popular vote is a better benchmark than an opinion survey. As the club’s example demonstrates, polling figures can vary widely.
Maybe Whitney’s 2006 performance was a Blagojevich-inspired fluke. But it did show that Illinoisans were fed up with the Ds and the Rs feeding them lame candidates. None of the major-party candidates for governor or senator are especially popular this time, either. None have broken 50 percent in any poll.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Independent Scott Lee Cohen or Libertarian Lex Green should be allowed to debate -- although they should, because they’ll be on the ballot. But the Greens met a benchmark established by the state board of elections. That should be good enough for the Union League Club, too.
The 10 percent support measure can hurt the major parties, too. A debate for the Cook County Assessor’s office would probably include Democrat Joe Berrios and Independent Forrest Claypool, but leave out Republican Sharon Strobeck-Eckersall.
If Whitney doesn’t get the 5 percent necessary to stay on the ballot this time, then the Greens shouldn’t be allowed to debate in 2014. The actions of the Union League suggest that they, and the major parties, are doing everything possible to ensure that happens.