A former front-runner to replace Secretary of StateDebra Bowen in November and the candidate polling third in the race missed the debate at the Sacramento Press Club Wednesday.
Democratic State Senator Leland Yee couldn't make it because he withdrew from the race after being arrested by the FBI and indicted for corruption. Green Party candidate David Curtis, who finished third in the Field Poll (pdf) a week ago, wasn't invited. Curtis was not happy.
“I was very disappointed to learn that a social group of supposedly prominent journalists would feel it appropriate to exclude any candidates," Curtis told the Sacramento Bee. He said he only found out about the debate when one of the candidates mentioned it on Twitter.
That left Democrats Derek Cressman and State Senator Alex Padilla, Republican Pete Peterson and self-proclaimed independent Dan Schnur to debate the issues at the forum. Two other candidates, Democrat Jeffrey Drobman and Republican Roy Allmond, were also not invited.
Planners of the event said they initially excluded Drobman, Allmond and Curtis before the Field Poll was published, which showed Curtis with 5%, behind surprising frontrunner Peterson (30%) and Padilla (17%). Schnur had 4% and Cressman 3%. Drobman and Allmond were not included in the poll, although “other” drew 1% support.
The journalists decided to stick to their guns after the poll came out because they thought Curtis had a big mouth.
“As we were discussing the best approach to take, Mr. Curtis began a tirade of insulting and threatening social media posts about our organization,” Press Club President Juliet Williams, an Associated Press reporter, said in a statement. “Upon receiving a phone call from our program director, Mr. Curtis became belligerent and rude, making a conversation impossible. Our decision was clear, given our intent to hold a civil and informative discussion on the issues in the race.”
Curtis begged to differ. “That was just rude. They call me rude. Well, that's rude," Curtis told the Sacramento Bee. He filed a complaint with the fraud division of the IRS against the press club for violating its non-profit status by excluding parties and candidates from a debate. He promised to show up anyways, but did not.
The San Diego-based Independent Voter Project unsuccessfully called for a boycott of the debate and questioned why journalists would be so thin-skinned. “The club has justified its position by claiming that Mr. Curtis was 'rude,' ” the group's co-chairmen, ex-Democratic state Senator Steve Peace and former GOP Assemblyman Jeff Marston, wrote.
“If so, it is for voters to pass judgement, not the Press Club. We speak from experience when we say every candidate has a right to make an ass of themselves, and the voters have a right to see it.”