In what may be a first for North Carolina politics, the first debate of the 2010 U.S. Senate election will include all ballot qualified candidates. The N.C. Bar Association is sponsoring a debate in Wilmington tomorrow which will include Libertarian Mike Beitler, incumbent Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Elaine Marshall.
News 14 Carolina will carry the debate live at 11 a.m. The channel is only available to Time Warner Cable digital customers.
In previous elections, organizers have usually exuded Libertarian candidates, claiming they did not meet the criteria for inclusion. This criteria is generally based on polling rates, even though most polls do not always include Libertarian candidates.
In the 2008 gubernatorial race Dr. Mike Munger, the Libertarian candidate, was included in three debates sponsored by the state’s television stations, but only the last one had all three candidates appearing. Democrat Bev Perdue, who was elected, declined to participate in all but the last debate.
Barbara Howe, current state chair and the party’s 2004 gubernatorial candidate filed a FCC complaint against WRAL TV for not including her in the debate they sponsored in that campaign. The FCC has never issued a ruling on her complaint.
During the primary campaign, Beitler participated in a candidates forum sponsored by the NAACP which included several Democratic candidates. Sen. Burr was invited but did not attend.
Since he began his campaign in September 2009, Beitler said he’s been picking up support from frustrated Democrats and Republicans, which he said was demonstrated in Tuesday’s low voter turnout.
“And it’s because they’re saying, ‘We don’t want more of the same. We want to see jobs created. We want to see government shrinking in size. We want to be reducing the debt, not increasing it,'” he said.