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 V.17 No.41 | October 9 - 15, 2008 

Thin Line

Three-Way Debate

"I've been trying to get excited about these races, and this candidate's great and all, but I just don't feel like I have a choice."

And the record skips. "I don't have a choice." And skips. "It's just a bunch of rich guys backed by corporate interests." And skips. "A two-party system sucks."

I wish there were 15 viable candidates for every office, backed by a variety of political parties supporting a spectrum of views. I wish there were no way to be a default voter, pulling the lever for the only candidate who faintly echoes your values. Is anything in life so black-and-white that making an either-or choice creates a permanent solution?

But that's how elections go down in these United States, and that’s how things work in New Mexico, too. It should come as no surprise that independent candidate Carol Miller had to fight her way into the Oct. 19 debate co-sponsored by KOAT Channel 7 and the Albuquerque Journal. Miller's running for Congress against Democrat Ben Ray Lujan and Republican Dan East in District 3, which includes Santa Fe and northern New Mexico.

Miller's a scrappy candidate. You have to be if you're not backed by either major party. She collected 11,000 signatures to get on the ballot. She issued a directive calling for her base to flood the inboxes and voicemails of Sue Stephens, KOAT's news director, and Kent Walz, the editor of the Journal.

"Since KOAT-TV and the Albuquerque Journal have decided to involve themselves in the political arena in this manner, they have a moral responsibility to present the entire picture and not censure or exclude, especially at such a critical time in history when who we send to Congress could help determine the direction in which our country moves," Miller wrote in her plea to her constituents.

Hear, hear. It's bad enough that we're usually asked to pick between one of only two options. When there is a third, the media can't just pretend he or she doesn't exist. We're never going to go beyond a two-party system if only Democrats and Republicans are considered "real" candidates by our mass communicators. Further, it's really those contenders without the huge financial backing for extensive ad campaigns who need to participate in televised debates. They're the people you're likely to know the least about.

Stephens was quoted in the Santa Fe New Mexican as saying the reasoning behind Miller's exclusion was that the other two candidates were in the public eye because they survived the primary. While it's true that there is no primary for independent candidates, it's also true that plenty of people are tired of making an either-or political decision. It's past time the press took that into account.

Miller received her invitation to the debate on Wednesday, Oct. 1. Looks like she did what she could with what she had and managed to change the minds of two major New Mexico news outlets. Maybe she taught them a lesson. Maybe in four years, those outlets and others will remember to present every option the first time around.

 

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