CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There will be five names on the ballot for a Senate seat from West Virginia in November, and some are questioning why there were only two seats at the table for Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston.
Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber of Glenville, W.Va., Libertarian Party candidate John Buckley and Constitution Party candidate Phil Hudok were not invited to take part in Tuesday’s debate. As Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant prepared to square off inside the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, some of those candidates and their supporters were expressing their displeasure outside in the rain.
“It’s a travesty,” Hudok, wearing a sign reading “Truth Muted!” around his neck, said. “It’s a fake debate.”
The decision to exclude third-party and write-in candidates was based on debate sponsor AARP’s criteria for inclusion of candidates: For political party candidates, the party must have received at least 5 percent of the vote during the last general election, while independent candidates must register at least 5 percent public support in polls conducted by news media or other independent organizations.
Buckley, from Mathias, W.Va., believes excluding any candidate from a debate does the public a disservice.
“They may not vote for any of us, but I think they’d like hearing our ideas,” Buckley said.
Write-in candidate Larry Eugene Butcher, a Republican from Wood County, also was on hand, clad in American flag-emblazoned headband, shirt and shorts. He was joined by his dog, Abby.
Butcher, who unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination for the seat in May, said he hopes the public will support him to send a message that they are tired of partisan gridlock in Washington.
“It’s only one vote, but that’s all West Virginia’s got,” Butcher saidr. “And West Virginia needs somebody better than Natalie Tennant and Shelley Moore Capito.”
Hudok said his platform is simple, and based on the document that shares his party’s name.
“We need the rule of law, and without obeying the Constitution, we don’t have the rule of law,” Hudok said. “We descend into chaos.”
Buckley, as a Libertarian, believes his strength is in his ability to subvert traditional liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican dichotomy.
“I think the public is ready for something different. I think more freedom and less government is something the public can respond to,” Buckley said. “Fifty million dollars more, and I think I’d be on the cusp of victory. I’m still waiting for the big bucks to roll in.”