21 October, 2006

Hawkins Invites Himself to Senate Debate in Rochester

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins for Senate, as we reported earlier, was not invited to attend last night's debate in Rochester. (See our debate summary by clicking here, or by scrolling down to the previous post).

Only the two major-party candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and Republican John Spencer were invited.

The League of Women Voters withdrew its sponsorship of this debate, and the one scheduled for tomorrow morning in New York, because of Hawkins' exclusion.

So, Hawkins decided to show up anyway.

Since the mainstream media won't give him any coverage, and since debates, in my view, are the best way to pit each candidate's ideas against the others' I reproduced below a word-for-word account of the evening, as presented by Hawkins. Every word beyond the end of this sentence comes directly from the Hawkins campaign.

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate, was not invited to the US Senate debate at the University of Rochester Friday night between Senator Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent, John Spencer.

A facilities manager for the university had told Polly Miller of Rochester Against War who asked for a room where Hawkins could give a post debate news conference, "We don’t want him on our property because he's not invited."

Hawkins showed up anyway.

At 6:00 pm, as the media began to gather to cover the 7:00 pm debate, Hawkins was able to give a statement to one local television station. Tonight’s debate will have the two pro-war candidates debating how to continue fighting the war, while I would give voice to the majority of New Yorkers who oppose the war in Iraq." Hawkins said to the television reporter.

"Clinton and Spencer will debate how to patch up the grossly inefficient and costly private health insurance system that leaves 2.9 million New Yorkers uninsured. I would present the position supported by the majority of New Yorkers who support a publicly financed, national health insurance program to provide full health coverage for all Americans," Hawkins continued.

"On issue after issuee, Clinton and Spencer agree on basic policies and argue over details, while a candidate like me who gives voice to alternative views that resonate with the majority of New Yorkers is excluded. It's the voters of New York who lose when all the ballot-qualified candidates are not heard in the debates," Hawkins concluded.

Time Warner sponsored the debate. Time Warner's policy is to include in their senatorial debates only candidates who have raised at least $500,000. Time Warner's executives have given the Clinton campaign over $100,000. Hawkins said he expects to have raised less than $50,000 by the end of his campaign.

Before Hawkins could speak with any more media, security escorted him off the campus to Wilson Boulevard, about 75 yards from the debate hall and the adjacent building for the press.

Socialist Equality Party candidate, Bill Van Auken, was similarly escorted by security to Wilson Boulevard. 20 members from Rochester Against War joined the two candidates to protest the exclusion of antiwar candidates from the debate.

For the next hour before the debate, they leafleted passing media and people going to the debates. Hawkins was able to give statements to two more local television stations, but the rest of the media, including CNN, AP, Buffalo News, Al Jazeera, and crews from Germany and Russia declined to interview him.

As the debate began, a cold rain started falling in the 40-degree night. Most of the picketers retreated to shelter, but Hawkins, Van Auken, and a few supporters remained, huddling under umbrellas listening to the debate on a portable radio.

Hawkins' post-debate news conference was called for 8:30 pm, 30 minutes after the debate ended to give the Green response. When no media came out into the rainy night and the candidates could see the reporters in their high-ttech press room, labeled the "Media Spin Room' typing away on computers to file their stories.

Hawkins and Van Auken tried a few times to enter the press room, but were repelled by security.

Meanwhile on campus, according to students who came by the antiwar protesters, another protest meeting was being held. Called by the university president, it was a meeting of students and faculty who objected to not being able to attend a senatorial debate on their own campus. They felt their campus had been "hijacked," as one student said the university president described it.

The president and some of the selected few faculty and students who had been offered tickets declined to attend.

Unable to get into the press room before the reporters filed their stories, Hawkins attempted to go to the "Beehive" on campus where the students and faculty were meeting. He didn't get far. Security once again escorted him off campus.

Hawkins then headed back to Syracuse to work his night shift unloading freight at UPS.

His next out-of-town campaign stop is the second and last senatorial debate to which he is also not invited at WABC studios in New York City at 9:00 am on Sunday, October 22. Hawkins will be there at 8:00am and will hold a post debate news conference at 10:30 am, 30 minutes after the Sunday debate ends.


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