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
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
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
2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of