Regular readers of this blog are likely aware that I'm not a fan of Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton for many reasons. I've voted against her endorsement by the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, criticized her on a variety of issues, and been, well, less than polite at a few public forums. The last thing I really want to do with this blog is republish Lifton press releases.
Every now and then, though, something so infuriating comes up that the only right response is to republish a Lifton press release:
Lifton Campaign Challenges Opponent to Engage in Fair Debate, Reveal Actual Party and Anti-government Group Affiliations Publicly
The campaign of Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton has been approached by Ms. Kelly Kheel, who initially represented herself, on Sept. 8, as follows:
I am hosting a Meet the Candidate night in Tompkins County, NY. This is a non partisan forum. We plan to send invitation (sic) and moderate the event. The date is Sept. 25 at 7 pm. Mr. Reynolds has agreed.
Thank you for your consideration.
The Lifton campaign made repeated efforts to work with Ms. Kheel to agree to a time, format and location that would allow Assemblywoman Lifton's participation in a forum. Repeated requests for information about Ms. Kheel's "group" were responded to with minimal or misleading information. Eventually, the Lifton Campaign was able to discover, through on-line research, that Ms. Kheel's group is 912 TEA CTCNY. Reading the information on their website, at http://www.meetup.com/912Tea-Party-Patriots-Tompkins-County-NY/ , reveals that many of their 66 members reside outside of the Cortland/Tompkins area that they purportedly represent. Their current headline reads "We Surround Ithaca." The web page also reveals that Assemblywoman Lifton's opponent has been an active member of this group since April 14, 2010, although this information is not included on his campaign website, nor did Ms. Kheel mention that Mr. Reynolds was a member of her group in her correspondence with the Lifton campaign until we brought this fact up with her.
The Lifton Campaign challenges Mr. Reynolds to be open and above-board with the public about his true party affiliations. On the Tea Party group's website, his member page identifies him, in his own words, as a "Reagan republican Cheif Financial Officer," and he has also represented himself to the media as a Republican. Yet, while he is the Republican nominee for Assembly, his Board of Elections records identify him as a registered member of the Conservative Party. He has made public challenges to our campaign to engage in large numbers of debates, and then apparently encouraged the organizers of a group he is a member of to misrepresent itself as an impartial entity and set up a rigged "forum" in which the group leader acted as moderator.
Fair play and honest public discourse are the cornerstones of our democracy. The Lifton campaign challenges her opponent to engage in honest dicussion, in truly impartial forums, of the actual issues facing NYS government. We also challenge Mr. Reynolds to explain how he would uphold the Constitution of the State of NY if he accepts the 4th principle of Ms. Kheel's group: "The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government." Would he be willing to uphold NYS laws? Is his goal to become a NYS Assembly Member, or to spread the anti-government message of the TEA Party?
That's not an invitation to a debate - it's an invitation to an ambush. Dryden's had some contentious debates in the past, probably peaking in 2007 at Varna. I'll admit that I felt ambushed by some of the extremely right-wing questions, not to mention false claims - but at least the moderators of those events actually were neutral.
The first of the 2007 debates was moderated by the League of Women Voters, and the next two were moderated by WHCU host Geoff Dunn. Dunn makes a point of registering as a blank and of taking political signs only when he can signs from all sides - I don't know what his personal politics are, but he does an excellent job of keeping them out of the way when running a debate.
I worry that few undecided voters actually show up at debates, and there seems to be a regular battle to stack the audience with supporters. That said, stacking the moderator as well as the audience goes way way way outside of anything I'd recognize as decent politics.
If this is the kind of change the Tea Party folks want to bring to politics, we have some major problems before we even get to actual issues.Posted by simon at September 23, 2010 1:03 PM in politics (state)