Deland, Florida — Libertarians are used to being excluded from debates in Florida, so the
lack of an invitation for candidate Paul Stanton to debate his opponents Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy isn’t surprising. While Rubio and Murphy met at Broward College last night, the Stanton campaign is staring at the FEC regulations, wondering why they haven’t been enforced.
On Sept. 1, 2016, two days after the primaries, Rubio and Murphy were invited to last night’s debate—and both accepted. While the debate criteria stated that the ‘qualified’ poll to earn an invitation had to be conducted during the month of September, the Democrat and Republican were invited before any general-election polling even occurred. Most polls take a minimum of 3-to-4 days to run their full cycle. The only polls coming out prior to Sept. 1, 2016, were primary polls and hypothetical matchup polls. So why were invitations extended prior to an ‘independent, reputable poll’ being selected?
In early October—in response to inquiries by the Stanton campaign—the debate organizers stated that the poll they deemed the debate ‘qualifier’ was the Mason-Dixon poll conducted from Sept. 27-29, 2016. So why did the first two candidates get an invitation on Sept. 1, 2016? Was it simply because they were from the Republican and Democratic parties? In a recent poll conducted by Florida Atlantic University, they didn’t even ask participants if they were going to vote for Stanton, only mentioning Rubio and Murphy’s names. In that poll, the only alternative to the Democrat and Republican was “undecided” which came to 12 percent.
Here is what FEC regulations state:
“For all debates, staging organization(s) must use pre-established objective criteria to
determine which candidates may participate in a debate. For general election
debates, staging organizations(s) shall not use nomination by a particular political
party as the sole objective criterion to determine whether to include a candidate in
The debate organizers—Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida—established official debate criteria (12.5% threshold, 3.5% margin of error, 815 or more ‘likely Florida voters’) immediately following the primaries on Aug. 30. Stanton met that criteria threshold twice in September in PPP polling, only to have those PPP polls disqualified because of technicalities.
Stanton has polled at 10, 9 and 6 percent in three PPP polls, as well as 5 percent in the chosen Mason-Dixon poll. A recent straw poll at the University of South Florida had Stanton at 7 percent. In the 2010 Florida U.S. Senate election, 5 percent of the vote would have equated to 270,000 votes.
Without even needing to go further, this debate violates stated regulations. Yet FEC regulations are rarely enforced. So for the third time in six years, a military veteran who is running for office in Florida as a Libertarian (Alex Snitker for U.S. Senate in 2010, Adrian Wyllie for Governor in 2014 and now Paul Stanton) is being excluded from debates, thus diminishing the candidate’s ability to be heard.
Paul Stanton could be louder about this potential violation, but has decided not to pursue this issue in the legal system. He does, however, wish to publicize the continued abuses of power that take place when it comes to the Republican and Democratic parties. We have seen it in the presidential campaign, and now we are getting a taste of it closer to home in Florida.
“I would have a strong case, but even if we pursued this through the court system
and won, we would be using government coercion to force a political agenda on a
private entity. As a Libertarian, I oppose that type of government coercion. Even
though I won’t file a complaint, I think these questions should be raised.”
Paul Stanton is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, receiving his honorable discharge as a Sergeant. Following his service, he became an outspoken Libertarian activist. Stanton feels he is the ‘Peace Candidate’ in the race. He currently resides in DeLand, Florida working in computer programming and data analytics. He captured the historic first statewide Libertarian primary back in late August.