Candidate for State Rep Barred From Upcoming Debate
Despite previous confirmation, candidate is told he can’t participate by event organizer
Brighton, Mich.—Steve Mace, campaign manager for the Campaign to Elect James Lewis for State Representative (district 42, Livingston County) reports that Lewis’ invitation to the “all-candidates” debate has been withdrawn by event organizer Judith Scranton.
The debate which is being held at Cleary University’s Johnson Center on Sept. 25, is being sponsored by the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce. Scranton, who previously held the 66th district seat (now district 42) that is currently held by incumbent Bill Rogers (R), is the Chamber’s debate organizer. Lewis is attempting to unseat Rogers in November.
Scranton, the former Republican state representative, notified Mace today via telephone that Lewis’ invitation to participate had been withdrawn. Scranton informed Mace that Lewis will not be included in the debate, despite a previous email confirmation from Scranton on September 1 that Lewis was to be included.
“We are stunned. We do not know why this decision was made. Are they looking to quiet a dissenting voice, or hamper a valid challenge? We just don’t know. It is a very sad day for Livingston County voters and for democracy in our state,” Mace said.
Mace called debates a “vital part of the democratic process” in this country. He says this intentional exclusion of Lewis, whose campaign has quickly been gaining momentum and wide support, is an example of the “private club mentality” of the two-party system.
“Defenders of the two-party system have to go out of their way to exclude and silence those who are not offering the same failed solutions to issues in order to keep an antiquated system relevant. Barring candidates who do not subscribe to the two-party system appears to be a clear attempt to mislead voters,” Mace said.
The following excerpt is from an email sent by the Lewis campaign to Scranton on Aug. 31:
Our office wanted to confirm that James Lewis is scheduled to appear in the candidate’s debate; and that our date of September 25th is correct?
Our campaign information is as follows:
James Lewis (L) is on the ballot for the November election and is running for state representative of the 42nd House District. James is a Brighton business owner and member of the Chamber…”
Mace says the email included Lewis’ full campaign information; including campaign office, email, and website addresses.
Scranton’s reply on Sept. 1 was:
“Hi: I sincerely apologize! We did not realize there was another candidate for state Rep. Absolutely Mr. Lewis will be included in the candidate forum.
The forum is to be held on Tuesday, Sept. 25. at Cleary University’s Johnson Center. You will receive a letter from Pam at the Brighton Chamber with the details.
We look forward to Mr. Lewis’ attendance and participation.
Mace says the reasons offered by Scranton for Lewis being withdrawn were confusing. He says Scranton attempted to insinuate that she was unaware Lewis was not from the Democratic or Republican parties, despite the campaign’s email making it clear he was not. Mace was quick to point out the rationale offered by Scranton “shows contempt for voters and for democracy”.
Mace says Scranton alluded that “others” had made this decision, although she would not answer his query as to when specifically the decision to remove Lewis from the debate had been made. Mace says Scranton did however inform him that she supported the decision to now exclude Lewis.
“In essence we were being told, unabashedly, that organizers are attempting to give district voters and the media the impression that there are only two options on the ballot. This renders the debate a farce and makes a mockery of the democratic process,” Mace said.
Mace says he immediately notified the entire campaign team via telephone, and reported the news to supporters via Facebook and Twitter.
“The reaction has been swift and angry. We have been receiving large amounts of feedback via Facebook and email from Livingston County voters disgusted by this exclusion, including many undecided voters from the district,” Mace said.
Lewis, who is currently in Massachusetts attending a family wedding, called this turn of events “concerning and disappointing, but not surprising.” Lewis said via telephone, “Partisan debate organizers across the country need to start accepting that it is the 21st century. Voters are growing increasingly tired of this system of non-inclusion.”
Mace says supporters are calling for a protest of the debates.
“Gauging by the reaction from supporters to James being suddenly dropped from the debate a protest may already be a forgone conclusion,” says Mace.