The anti-establishment fever ripping across the country has led to increased interest in third-party and independent candidates. And here in Colorado, these candidates are doing their best to roil election cycle formalities like the debate process, which have historically ignored minor party and unaffiliated candidates. The latest to raise his voice: Buck Bailey, the Libertarian candidate for Colorado's 7th Congressional District.
Yesterday, Bailey issued a challenge to the mainstream candidates and debate sponsors to include him in the remainder of the forums.
Third-party candidates face a catch-22 when it comes to eliciting debate invitations. The private entities that sponsor the debates will usually require that candidates produce a poll showing they carry a minimum percentage of votes. Most polls, however, only list the two major-party candidates by name, while lumping the rest of the candidates into an "other" category. But Bailey has a strong argument for inclusion in this year's debates: a Magellan poll showing that 10 percent of the votes in his district are going to "Another Candidate."
Since Bailey is the only other candidate on the ballot, that would seem to indicate that the 10 percent belongs to him. Still, Bailey says that debate sponsors routinely pass him over because his name is not explicitly spelled out in the polling data.
A third-party candidate could be especially critical in this year's 7th District race. The Magellan poll shows GOP candidate Ryan Frazier and Democratic incumbent Ed Perlmutter locked in a dead heat at 40 percent and 39 percent, respectively, with Bailey (or "Another Candidate") at 10 percent, and 11 percent undecided.
Bailey says he's not interested in being included in the debates solely as a means of breaking the gridlock. "One of the fears about my third-party candidacy is that I'll pull votes from the conservative. But I'll pull votes from both sides," he says. "We could have a serious three-way race here if they'd let me in."
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Bailey's omission becomes even more glaring when considered in light of last night's Allied Jewish Federation Candidate Forum. The forum maintains a 20 percent polling requirement, which disqualifies Bailey from participating, and Frazier is out of state at a fundraiser. As a result, Perlmutter was the only 7th District candidate presenting at the forum.
Representatives from Perlmutter's camp says they've been proactive in working to include Bailey in the debates. "Voters deserve to hear from all of the candidates," says campaign spokeswoman Leslie Oliver, adding that they've petitioned numerous debate sponsors to include the Libertarian candidate.
Bailey has participated in only one debate so far, but he received some good news yesterday from Channel 12. Director of production Dominic Dezzutti held a meeting with his staff to analyze Bailey's unique situation. The station has determined that Bailey meets their requirements of polling at 5 percent in an established, independent poll. As a result, Channel 12 will be extending a formal invitation to the candidate for a debate that will air on October 14.
While this may not represent total victory, Bailey's well-timed push gained him a win yesterday.