Candidates for governor criticize requirements for debate

MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association (WBA) is receiving some backlash from candidates for governor about their rules to speak at their debate in July. WBA announced it is only inviting four of the 10 candidates running for governor to participate in a July 27th debate.

The four will be picked by who tops next month’s Marquette University Law School Poll and at minimum raised $250,000 in campaign cash. Candidate Kelda Roys, who just received 23 percent of the votes in a straw poll at the Democratic convention, called it unfair.

"With our momentum, I'm confident that I'd be included, but regardless I think we should include all the candidates,” said Roys.

Other candidates vented their frustration on Twitter. Candidate Mike McCabe called WBA’s decision “rigged and corrupt.” State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout argues democracy is not supposed to work like this.

“In a democracy, I thought the only thing that counted was the votes of the people,,” said Vinehout. “Giving money a deciding voice sends the message that the rich are more important than the poor, that those who write big checks have more influence than those who knock on doors or put up yard signs.”

Mahlon Mitchell, President of The Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, said every candidate deserves a shot to show why they can compete against Governor Scott Walker.

"The WBA gets to decide the rules, but I don't care if we have 8 candidates on stage -- that's one person for every year of Scott Walker's failed tenure as Governor. Let the voters hear from all of us," said Mitchell.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesperson is asking WBA to reconsider its decision to "drastically narrow the field."

WBA responded to the criticism stating the debate is limited to 60 minutes and “given the time allowed, we can only accommodate four candidates.” It called the Marquette Poll the only statewide poll that is recognized as “reliable, trusted and non-partisan.”

Charles Franklin, Director of Marquette’s Polls and Votes, encouraged WBA that every poll has a margin of error. “The Marquette Law School Poll is a fully independent, widely respected survey of voters in Wisconsin,” said Franklin. “We have no control over the uses that others make of it upon its being released. We had no role in the decision by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association to use the Marquette Law School Poll results for its debate, and this is not a use of our poll that we support. We think the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association should not use our poll in this way.”

History shows in the 2012 governor's race, a Marquette Law Poll showed Milwaukee's Mayor Tom Barrett leading former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk - 38 percent to 21 percent.  In the 2012 primary, those percentages changed a bit with Barrett winning 58 percent. Another factor showing these polls can change drastically weeks before an election.

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