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Senate Nominees From Green, Constitution Parties Are On Ballot, Off Debates

By Subodh Mishra
Capital News Service
Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004

WASHINGTON - Maryland voters who tune in to this week's debates between two U.S. Senate candidates may be scratching their heads come Election Day, when they see four names on the ballot.

Maria Allwine of the Green Party and Thomas Trump of the Constitution Party are running, even if they have been excluded from debates between Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Republican challenger E.J. Pipkin.

"It is undemocratic to exclude third parties from fora such as this (debate)," said Allwine, 51, in an e-mail interview. "The people of Maryland have a fundamental right to hear other views. That is an integral part of a vital democracy."

Trump, 34, echoed Allwine's concerns in his own e-mail message, calling his exclusion the result of an electoral process that favors those who want to remain in power.

Organizers of both debates -- a Monday event at Maryland Public Television and a Friday event at WTOP radio -- said they limited participation to candidates who had received support from at least 15 percent of the voters in a "recognized independent statewide poll."

That meant Pipkin and Mikulski, who got 34 percent and 58 percent, respectively, in an October poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies. The same poll gave Allwine and Trump 1 percent each.

The League of Women Voters, which co-sponsored Monday's debate, said the 15 percent threshold was being used for the first time in Maryland and that the policy is a guideline established by the national party that state chapters can accept or reject. The restrictions were designed to let the debates focus on "viable" candidates, organizers said.

"We felt 15 percent was a good enough cut-off to ensure candidates would be the ones people were interested in," said Lu Pierson, of the state's League of Women Voters.

Even though they have not been deemed viable by debate organizers, Allwine and Trump press on, running low-budget, lower-profile campaigns.

Allwine, a resident of Baltimore, said she takes any opportunity she can to campaign, going to community meetings and other gatherings to meet voters.

She is campaigning on a platform to end the war in Iraq, promote universal healthcare, and clean up the bay by encouraging farmers -- through the use of tax incentives -- to prevent nutrient runoff from their farms.

Trump, whose platform includes calls for an end to income taxes, is a staunch advocate of transferring the responsibilities of most federal departments and agencies to the states. The Constitution Party candidate also favors preserving and strengthening the Second Amendment rights of gun owners by allowing them to carry concealed weapons.

He is hoping to spread his campaign message through e-mail lists, word of mouth and affiliation with the national party, according to his campaign Web site.

Copyright 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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