Dennis Steele U.S. Army Veteran
Last week, it was brought to the attention of the campaign that the first debate of the General Election season will be held on Thursday, August 26th at the DoubleTree Hotel in South Burlington. Sponsored by the AARP and Vermont Public Television, this will be the first debate a which Republican Candidate Brian Dubie will make an appearance, and we at the Steele Campaign have been relishing the prospect of Dennis’ first public exchange with the current Lite Governor. However, reading further into the press release, we noticed that it indicated that the debate would be “between Vermont’s Democratic and Republican candidates for governor.” Seeing as Dennis Steele spent the summer vigorously campaigning across Vermont, and was included in no less than seven gubernatorial forums over the course of the primary season, it would seem that his exclusion would deny the audience the full story of the campaign for the governor’s office.
With this in mind, we contacted David P. Reville of the AARP and Ann Curran of Vermont Public Television and respectfully requested inclusion. Ms. Curran has yet to respond, but Mr. Reville replied with an email in which he stated that the AARP’s decision to exclude Dennis was based upon certain enumerated “objective guidelines.” We responded by pointing out the fact that Dennis definitely fulfills 2 of the 3 requirements, and that the third is an ambiguous case in which, in the interest of fairness, Dennis should get the benefit of the doubt. The email is below, and our responses are in italics.
Hi Matt –
Thanks for your inquiry regarding the upcoming AARP Governor’s Forum. This event is part of our overall voter education activities and the latest of many such events we’ve held over the years to help inform voters as they head to the polls. We really want to ensure that voters get as much time as possible to question and hear from the candidates who may be their next governor. Therefore, we have limited the debate to the most viable candidates based on a set of objective criteria. These criteria are outlined below.
I understand your concern and hope you can also recognize our desire to give voters access to the two most viable gubernatorial candidates.
Since AARP is a private sector, nonprofit corporation, there are no legal requirements for AARP to include all candidates in a voter education activity. The decision to exclude certain candidates, however, must be based on objective guidelines rather than personal attitudes toward a particular candidate or his/her position on issues.
For a candidate to be included in an AARP candidate forum or voter guide, he or she must meet the following guidelines.
1. The candidate must be registered with the Secretary of State (or Board of Elections) as an official candidate whose name will appear on the official ballot.
2. The candidate must have a campaign office where he or she (and campaign staff) can be contacted during regular business hours.
-The number for Dennis’ office 802-748-3475 – it shares space with his business, and he is thus available during business hours.
3. If an independent candidate, the individual must register at least 5 percent in voter support in official polls conducted by news media or other independent polling organizations (not political party or candidate polls).
-We obviously can have little say in what pollsters ask, and in the two Rasmussen polls that have been administered so far, all of the questions have related to pairing various Democratic candidates with Brian Dubie. We hope to be included in the polls once the primary is over, but that, of course, would be too late for your debate. However, the polls do show an interesting trend – in the one from June 17 (http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2010/election_2010_governor_elections/vermont/toplines/toplines_2010_vermont_governor_june_17_2010/), the option of “some other candidate” receives between 5 and 8% depending on the match-up. With Dennis as the only independent or 3rd party candidate to have filed campaign finance disclosures with the State (http://vermont-elections.org/elections1/2010_disclosures_august.html), and far and away the one with the most appearances at gubernatorial forums, I believe it would be fair to assume, given that no polls have actually asked about alternatives to the duopoly candidates, that the bulk of those votes will be for Dennis. I understand that the situation is a bit ambiguous, but I urge your organization to err on the side of fairness and inclusiveness in this situation.
I hope this answers your questions Matt. Thanks again.
As we haven’t heard anything back since sending that response, we believe it is safe to assume that the AARP’s State leadership has decided to stand firm on their decision to exclude independent voices from the dialogue on Vermont’s political future. This is truly a disturbing event because, as the first event of the season, it sets the precedent for the rest of the campaign. If Dennis is included on Thursday, it will be hard to justify excluding him from future events; conversely, if he’s excluded, it will be that much harder for the message of a Free Vermont to get a fair public hearing, and the R and D candidates will be able to proceed through the events of the next few months without being forced to publicly confront the scale and scope of economic, social, psychological, and spiritual wreckage that the belligerent and criminal policies of the Federal Government have imposed upon Vermont. When in a debate, Dennis serves as the voice of every Vermonter of good conscience who opposes the empire; when excluded, the most fundamental issues are ignored and forgotten.
Therefore, we call upon concerned Vermonters to confront the injustice being perpetrated by the AARP and VPT in the following way. First, email and call the organizations and express your disappointment in their narrow-minded decision to exclude Dennis Steele. If you are an age 50+ member of AARP and, as a result of their actions, are considering resigning your membership, make sure you communicate that intention to Mr. Reville. The contact information is:
-David Reville, AARP Vermont, 802-951-1303, email@example.com
-Ann Curran, Vermont Public Television, 802-655-8059, firstname.lastname@example.org
Our hope is that this decision will be reversed and that Dennis will get a fair shake in the debate; if that doesn’t happen, however, we implore any supporter who can make it to come out to the DoubleTree Hotel and publicly demonstrate with Dennis. Even if we can’t get into this debate, we can show everyone who arrives that they are missing out on an important voice, and communicate to future forum organizers that we won’t simply slink quietly away with our tails between our legs if they try to keep us quiet. Doors open at 6:30 – we’ll meet there at 6:15. We need YOU there to show that Dennis’ campaign and the movement for a Free Vermont isn’t going anywhere and WILL BE HEARD!