Let’s Open a Second Front in the Potts Debate War

There was a palpable change of atmosphere at the Blog Summit yesterday when someone questioned Ken Stroupe of the Center for Politics about allowing Russ Potts into the televised gubernatorial debate. I suspect the group would have been happy to argue the issue for the rest of the session, but Summit leaders quickly put a lid on it.

Today’s Daily Press editorial page continues to shill for letting Potts into the debate just on his own recognizance:

Potts deserves more than a single session with Democrat Kaine. He brings a striking measure of candor to the 2005 gubernatorial election – on transportation, education and public finance – and does so when the like has been in scant supply in recent years. Potts deserves to be heard and seen, and anything that artificially thwarts that does no favors for Virginia.

The debate about the debate will continue, but we really ought to open up a second front in this war of words and perceptions.

Did Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore discuss William Redpath’s exclusion from the gubernatorial debates in 2001? I doubt it. Wouldn’t anything they said back then be pretty relevant now?

Well, let’s ensure we have some real “markers” to use in 2009. We know that whatever they say, the four downticket candidates are running not just for Lt. Gov and AG–they’re running for the right to be their party’s natural candidate for governor in 2009. So let’s get them on record now as to what they believe about gubernatorial debates.

Here’s the basic question: Will you agree to participate in at least one state-wide televised debate with all candidates on the ballot if you run for governor in 2009?

If Bolling, Byrne, Deeds or McDonnell start weaseling, let’s find out what they think makes a candidate “credible” and worthy of a spot in a debate. Let’s run through some scenarios with them:

1. Just gaining a spot on the ballot through signatures?
2. 15% in the polls? 10% in the polls? 5% in the polls? Doesn’t matter?
3. Green Party endorsement? Libertarian Party endorsement? Any party endorsement?
4. Current or former VA elected officeholder?
5. Retired military or former appointed Federal offical?
6. Wealthy business person?
7. Celebrity?
8. Long-time activist?
9. Woman or racial minority?
10. Religious or ethnic candidate?

In today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Michael Hardy looked at the AG candidates and Pamela Stallsmith reviewed the Lt. Governor candidates. Nothing the downticket candidates are talking about is as remotely interesting as what the gubernatorial candidates are talking about–debating or not debating Russ Potts. Let’s get the downticket on record about debates now. Think of the benefit–one less peripheral issue next time out!

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  1. Barnie Day Avatar
    Barnie Day

    Good idea, Will. In fact, let’s even open a third front. There is a huge difference between Potts’ exclusion by the Virginia Bar Association and the Fairfax Chamber, both privately funded organizations, and his arbitrary exclusion by the Center for Politics. Stroupe acknowledged yesterday that the Center receives Genaral Assembly funding ($500,000 in tax dollars) and federal funding ($1 million in tax dollars) and further he acknowledged that the 15% rule is, in his words, “arbitrary,” consistent, and with precedent, but still “arbitrary.” Would not Potts have a basis to sue for inclusion on equal access grounds, considering the public funding? Seems to me that “arbitrary” is “arbitrary” and to exclude him for the arbitrary 15% rule would be no different that excluding him if he were black, or blue-eyed, or left-handed. How long would any of us stand for that? The ‘consistent’ argument gives me no comfort. History is beleagered with too many examples where organizations, institutions, and individuals have been consistently wrong. (I can hear my friend Sabato yeolling as he reads this already. All I ask of him is to point out where I’ve dropped a link in my thinking.)

  2. An excellent suggestion, Will. The goal posts have moved substantially in this election. And I imagine every time another editorial board waves the banner in favor of Potts being in the debates, Bill Redpath gets a cold chill.

    I suspect the down ticket folks won’t answer — it’s a hypothetical. Or, they may toe the party line. But one or two just might stand up and say what they think.

  3. Barnie’s point is a good one. As a state agency, the Center not only receives state funds, it is a state entity. As a state entity, the Center may impose only reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on free speech. While it may, in some circumstances, limit access to a public forum it creates (like the debate), it may not discriminate based on the content of speech or political party and certainly should not be “arbitrary” in excluding anyone from the forum. Arbitrary and capricious action by a state agency may be challenged as unconstitutional either as a violation of the equal protection clause or as a violation of due process depending on the circumstances. At a minimum, public action should be fundamentally fair. When, as here, a state actor (Ken Stroupe) openly admits that the state Center’s rule for deciding who can debate is “arbitrary,” we should, and Russ Potts arguably can, demand better.

  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Barnie, I knew you were “making mischief,” so to speak, when you asked that question about state funding. But it’s legitimate to link state funding to access, even if the Center uses their state money for other things. Money is fungible.

    One could even ask if the Center, as a state entity, has any business in conducting debates relating to elections among partisan candidates.

    Depending on one’s point of view, slippery slopes can be excuses or real concerns. I wonder about the future effect of letting anyone who gets on the ballot being automatically entitled to a spot in debates. I wonder about the future effect of editorial page clamoring and partisan calculations being used as the battering ram to get a favored candidate into debates. Maybe the “Virginia Way” is study enough to accommodate that possibility. The state funding thing complicates the question.

    I just wish those who are so intent on getting Potts into the debate would declare that Redpath got shafted and that no matter who gets on the ballot in 2009, they’ll support that candidate’s right to debate access. I hope they like those presidential primary debates with 10 candidates where the Rev. Sharpton style candidate steals the show but doesn’t get any votes.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I’ve managed to sit out the entire “debate” debate so far, but I can no longer refrain. Everyone is arguing lofty principle. But isn’t it an amazing coincidence how all the Republicans line up in support of Jerry Kilgore’s position and all the Democrats line up in support of Tim Kaine’s position? Gee, I don’t recall hearing any of these principles trotted out in favor of Russell Potts being articulated when it was a Green party, Libertarian party or Larouche party candidate trying to get exposure. I do recall Ralph Nader having a little difficulty getting on the ballot in Virginia in 2004. I wonder if the principles of inclusion that apply to Potts today applied to Nader then.

    The fact is, any decision on who to include or exclude is arbitrary, and it’s proper for the Center for Politics to set a standard and stick to it.

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    (Will, you’re the exception. I agree with where you’re trying to go with your post.)

  7. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    Good idea for ’09 Will. Our position on the debates is coming out in an exclusive interview tomorrow with the C’Ville news. It’s fair to assume with Larry Sabato involved it won’t be pretty!

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    well I see the spammers are at it again…

    I thought the below quote in the article was interesting:

    “He [Potts] brings a striking measure of candor to the 2005 gubernatorial election – on transportation, education and public finance – and does so when the like has been in scant supply in recent years.”

    What they don’t mention is that Potts has been the source of the lack of candor in recent years. He only achieved this status when he decided to run for governor.

  9. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    Once again, Barnie is so far left field he cannot even see home plate. He makes sick use of the word “arbitrary”.

    Arbitrary (from Dictionary.com)

    1) Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle: stopped at the first motel we passed, an arbitrary choice.

    Well I do not think that fits this case. The Center certainly did not pick the exclusion factor by chance, whim, or impulse. They clearly had past decisions that were never refuted as precedence.

    2) Based on or subject to individual judgment or preference: The diet imposes overall calorie limits, but daily menus are arbitrary.

    Barnie might argue this usage. However, even if it were “individual judgment or preference”, the Center STILL had precedence in choosing their exclusion rule.

    3) Established by a court or judge rather than by a specific law or statute: an arbitrary penalty.

    You know Barnie, I spent some time searching through Virginia Code and I really could not find any rule or law that gives Potts grounds to sue. Oh sure, if he was excluded by one of the reasons you mentioned, “[if] he were black, or blue-eyed, or left-handed”. But he is not being excluded base on gender, age, or religious affiliation. State funding or no state funding, I could not find any anti-discrimination law violated based on poll standing.

    4) Not limited by law; despotic: the arbitrary rule of a dictator.

    Surely, Barnie will not argue that there is a dictatorship at the Center.

    Sorry, Barnie. But you are high and dry on this path of argument. I echo Jim’s statement. The wording is clear, “…it is proper for the Center for Politics to set a standard and stick to it.” Moreover, Barnie they already did that several years ago.

    You will just have to pursue another course if you want to continue to help get that deceitful scoundrel and disgusting fraud included in the debate. I do not think the majority of the blogosphere will buy “Arbitrary” as an argument anymore.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Perhaps Potts is being excluded for the simple and non-arbitrary reason that he is in fact a nutcase!

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    I need to make a correction of my last post. I don’t know Sen. Potts to be a nutcase. less than honest, perhaps, but not a nutcase. Please consider the reason instead to be as modified above.

  12. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 10:28. Even those of us who have no love for Russ Potts took your use of the word “nutcase” as hyberbole, not a literal statement.

  13. James Young Avatar
    James Young

    You’re right, Jim. It is doubtful that any self-respecting squirrel would have anything to do with him!

  14. TheModerate Avatar

    This is great. It’s just what the Potts campaign needs – more free name I.D. from the Republican & Democratic gangs that can’t shoot straight.

    I love it! More, please.

  15. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    Can’t shoot straight? Seems right on target as far as I am concerned. Just how do you want to defend deceit and dishonesty this time TheModerate? Just what are you loving as we expose the Scoundrel?

  16. TheModerate Avatar

    DA: With the exception of this and a few other blogs, not many in the mainstream media have portrayed Potts as a scoundrel.

    Besides, Kilgore has plenty of skeletons in the closet. Things like the eavesdropping scandal, which was a question that was off limits in the last debate, his refusal to debate Fitch, and the alleged election improprieties allowed by his mother (yes, her son was AG at the time) in last year’s election for Gate City mayor are a few that come to mind.

    I am sure you have seen this but just in case: http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke%5C29803.html

    Finally, Kilgore ducking out of a debate in NOVA where a huge amount of undecided voters reside is completely missing the target if you ask me.

  17. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess


    I feel you believe “this and a few other blogs” are portraying Potts as a “scoundrel” as an attempt to benefit Kilgore. I believe that most bloggers against Potts feel the same as I do to the extent that I am against Potts not for Jerry’s sake but for Virginia’s.

    As for Blogger voicing their opinion on Potts, I would like you to name one blog that praises Potts. I mean really sides with Potts to the point of even suggesting that you vote for him. I have been looking and have found none. If you know of one please share it with me. If you do not, ask yourself why that is.

    Regarding the mainstream media, it has been pointed out time and time again, their fascination with Potts can be summed up in two words…good copy. Does good copy make a Governor?

    I would also like to point out that the MSM is slowly turning more critical towards Potts. Slowly but surly, Potts antics are being exposed.

    I am shocked you would throw out allegation against Kilgore to give Potts any credence. Besides, just what kind of harmful skeletons does Kilgore have if there is NO CONVICTIONS!

    Potts antics are fully documented on StopPotts.com. All you mention about Kilgore is hearsay. Heck, the one link you provided counters your slander, “…special prosecutor Joel Branscom has said that he has seen no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the registrar’s office.

    So what is your point? Are you saying you are the judge and have pronounced Kilgore as guilty?

    Finally regarding the debate issue. Are you telling me that Kilgore is doing anything improper by refusing or as you say, “ducking out” of a debate with Potts? At least that is the way I read your statement. Because I do not see his decision as improper. One might question the decision as to whether or not it makes political logic. However, it is not improper.

    You know TheModerate, I would have some respect for you if you would try to sell me on Kaine rather than an opportunist like Potts. Beside, you sound a whole lot more like a liberal leaning democrat to me. So why not act like one, sell Kaine and get off the Potts bandwagon.

  18. TheModerate Avatar


    There are no blogs that praise Potts – that was my point. And yes, you are correct, Potts is good copy, especially when compared to the two major party candidates. So we either have a situation where the MSM is out of touch, the blogs are out of touch, or we have two lousy major party candidates. I would say we have two lousy major party candidates.

    You are shocked that I would throw out allegations against Kilgore to give Potts any credence? Get real. Based on your stoppotts.com site, it would seem that you are very good at dishing it out but don’t like to take it when the tables are turned.

    All I mention is heresay? What about the first image that loads on the stoppotts.com site? Yes, the Bagdad Bob comparison. The entire site is nothing more than heresay – Potts SELECTED record with your commentary and opinion piled on top.

    “Special prosecutor Joel Branscom has said that he has seen no evidence of criminal wrong doing in the registrar’s office” – I guess we will see what the grand jury says.

    I would have much more respect for you, DA, if you could simply justify Kilgore ducking out of the debates. Who cares if it’s improper or illogical. Explain to me how Kilgore is going to pick-up votes in NOVA by not debating.

    Your final paragraph, along with the stoppotts.com site, speaks volumes about the state of the Republican Party. It’s attack, attack, attack. Not every member of the Republican Party pledges allegiance to that theory or runs scared from the far-right, flat earth, anti-everything crowd – myself included.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Moderate, would you please define “far-right, flat earth, anti-everything crowd “. These are inflammatory accusations that don’t tell us specifically what you think qualifies as such. It’s hard to tell what it is you think some Republicans “run scared from” (not you of course) when you don’t give us complete definitions with examples of what you seem to oppose.

  20. TheModerate Avatar

    Anon 10:55:

    In no particular order: Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, Jerry Kilgore, George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Bolling, Dick Black, Ken Cuccinelli, Jay O’Brien, Steve Martin, Steve Neuman and Bob Marshall.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Unfortunately those are people, not issues. What specific issues make them “that crowd”?

  22. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    To TM,

    Sorry so late getting back to you. Busy day at the office this morning and I had to beat the rain and get in a round of golf.

    TM, I will not ague whether or not we have two lousy party candidates. However, either one is a better person than Potts!

    Me get real? No sir, you get real. I fully admit I am “dishing” it out on Potts. And for damn good reasons. What “tables” are being turned on me that I do not like? I am dishing out facts (against Potts); you are dishing out hearsay (against Kilgore) in some lame attempt to defend Potts.

    I do not include any “hearsay” on StopPotts.com. Everything is completely documented. As for the “image”, again get real son, haven’t you heard of political satire? What is the difference between the image I copied from a blog site compared to the political cartoon I linked to from the Richmond Times depicting Potts campaign as being out on Mars? It all satire, not “hearsay”! Any stuff you say is hearsay is just political lampooning based on actual events or record.

    StopPotts site is a far cry from hearsay. Again, it is all documented or based on first hand accounts or simply lampooning.

    What of the “selected” record? What is omitted that I should include. Email me a list and I will consider posting your selected records with commentary as rebuttals. However, I think you will find slim pickings.

    Regarding the special prosecutor and asking me to justify Kilgore ducking the debates, I hate to tell you this, but you are sadly misinformed. Where in the world have you seen on my website or my blog posting were I am actively promoting Kilgore? I am sorry to say but you are terrible at comprehending what you are reading.

    I explained to you that I am not against Potts for Kilgore’s sake (nor Kaine’s). I am against Potts for Virginia’s sake. Further, my website is in no way connected to the Republican Party and it dose not promote the Party. To say otherwise is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

    Me personally, I am not “far right”, as you claim. I dare say I am probably more moderate than you are. Yes, I am pro-life and I am for responsible taxation. I would be glad to argue those points off-line whether or not those two positions makes me “far right” or just a responsible person. Just email me.

    I have no idea what you mean by flat earth. As far as I can remember, the earth has always been round in my mind. In addition, I am not anti-everything. Anyone that says other wise is either too ignorant of the facts or too scare to argue with facts.

    Finally, I still seriously doubt you really are a Republican. Base on what I have read, I see you as one of those “spend more money now and ask questions later” folks. Very irresponsible to tax payers. Which I see as more a liberal Democrat trait. Not necessarily a fact, just my humble opinion.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Great post DAB. I saw the MSM is up at it again today: http://www.newsleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050831/OPINION01/508310307/1014/NEWS01

    Do these people even bother to look into the person they are writing about? They couldn’t possibly have portrayed Potts more incorrectly.

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