Senate Debate Line-Up Lament
Three Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate from Maryland rallied in Annapolis yesterday to protest their exclusion from tonight's live televised debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters that will include only the two front-runners for the party's nomination.
Although there are 18 Democrats running in the Sept. 12 primary, only U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and former representative Kweisi Mfume are allowed to participate in the debate which will air on Maryland Public Television tonight at 7 p.m. The league requires that candidates attain at least 15 percent support in an independent statewide poll to participate.
Montgomery County businessman Josh Rales, American University history professor Allan Lichtman and former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen protested yesterday on the steps of the organization's Annapolis headquarters yesterday demanding that the league reconsider its debate regulations.
"New voices and fresh perspectives should be welcomed to the political process, rather than kept out by the political establishment and a media that is a rubber stamp for professional politicians," Rales said yesterday, according to his prepared remarks released by his campaign.
Rales, Lichtman and Rasmussen have trailed Cardin and Mfume in recent statewide polls. In a Washington Post poll in June, 5 percent of voters said they would support Rasmussen, 3 percent would support Lichtman and 1 percent would support Rales. Mfume and Cardin received the support of 31 percent and 25 percent of voters respectively, and 26 percent were undecided.
Rales seems to have gained ground since then, according to one independent poll released this week. In a statewide poll released by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies, 6 percent of voters said they would support Rales compared to 3 percent for Lichtman. A combined 2 percent of voters said they were supporting Rasmussen and other minor candidates. In the same poll, 43 percent of voters said they would support Cardin, 30 percent would support Mfume and 15 percent said they were undecided.
Rales' gains in the poll could be attributed to an aggressive, largely self-financed television advertising blitz his campaign launched in July. A millionaire real estate investor, Rales has pledged to spend about $5 million of his own money in the campaign.
-- Philip Rucker
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