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Only 2 invited to fair debate

By MARY CLARKIN Special to the Salina Journal

HUTCHINSON — Reform Party gubernatorial nominee Ken Cannon wants something his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Tom Holland, has: eligibility to participate in a gubernatorial debate during the fair.

Sponsored by WIBW-Radio in Topeka and the Kansas Radio Networks, the debate carries criteria to determine “major candidates” for governor.

Cannon, of Andover; Libertarian Party candidate Andrew Gray, of Topeka; and write-in candidate Joan Heffington, of Derby, don’t meet them.

Republican nominee U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, Topeka, and Holland, Baldwin City, do. So those two will square off in the 11 a.m. Sept. 11 debate on the fairgrounds.

Kelly Lenz, debate moderator and farm director for WIBW Radio and the Kansas Radio Networks, said the candidate must have raised at least $50,000 in nonpersonal campaign funds; have a statewide campaign organization with a staffed office; and, most importantly, Lenz said, they must have at least a 7 percent showing in a poll.

Lenz noted that a recent Rasmussen poll found Brownback with 57 percent; Holland at 34 percent; and “undecided” polling 6 percent.

Little interest shown

Larry Riggins, general manager of WIBW Radio, estimated he had received only “six phone calls total” from the public regarding the debate’s criteria.

“We have had these criteria for years and years,” Riggins said.

Lenz said a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1987 allows for such on-air debates that do not include all candidates, provided the broadcaster establishes objective criteria to determine candidate viability.

Gray said that as much as he is “personally dissatisfied” by being left out of the debate, “our libertarian values compel us to respect that decision,” he said, noting the sponsor is a private company.

“They have a right to include or exclude whoever they want,” Gray said.

Cannon has booth

Cannon will be visible at the state fair because his campaign has leased booth space for the event running Sept. 10 to 19. Brownback, too, will have his own booth at the state fair.

Many candidates avoid the expense and time commitment required when they rent their own booth by taking advantage of their party’s booth as a site to distribute literature and greet the public, said Sue Stoecklein, commercial exhibits director at the state fair.

The Kansas Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties each will have fair booths in the Meadowlark Building. Individual booths for Brownback and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Dodge City, also will be in Meadowlark, while U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, has space leased inside the Pride of Kansas Building.

Indoor space costs $900 for the fair while outside space ranges from $35 to $500. Besides Cannon, another candidate signed up for an outside booth is state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, running for the 1st Congressional District seat.

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