Independent mayoral candidates Jackie Green and Chris Thieneman say they were surprised and disappointed to learn last week that they will not be allowed to participate in the final televised mayoral debate next week, as only Mayor Greg Fischer and Councilwoman Angela Leet have been invited to participate in the live broadcast.
Pat Murrell, the president of the League of Women Voters of Louisville, told Insider Louisville last week that while all nine candidates for mayor were invited to its candidate forum to be broadcast on WAVE3-TV on Oct. 16, organizers recently decided to split the forum into two: one aired live on television and WFPL at 7 p.m., with the second one at 8:15 p.m., which will only be livestreamed on wave3.com and archived online on wave3.com and wfpl.org.
Only Fischer and Leet will participate in the forum that is broadcast live, while the independent candidates will participate in the second forum.
Murrell told Insider that the decision to split the forums in two was recently made in collaboration with WAVE3-TV and Louisville Public Media, as they ultimately decided that too many independent candidates accepted the invitation to have them all on stage for the same event.
Green — whose invitation letter from LWV on Aug. 8 invited him to a 7 p.m. forum that “will be televised by WAVE-TV and recorded by Louisville Public Media and aired live” — told Insider that he had only recently been informed of a time change to 8 p.m., but not that he wouldn’t be allowed on the same stage as the Democratic and Republican nominees for mayor.
In an email to Insider, Green — a bike store owner and environmental activist — said excluding the independent candidates from the main debate would damage open discussion, as “important issues, such as sustainability, will be lost or green-washed.”
Green added that splitting the independent candidates into nontelevised forum “is a form of media censorship — not censorship OF, but censorship BY the media.”
Murrell said that while Green and two other independent candidates were originally invited to a 7 p.m. forum to be broadcast live, four more independent candidates later filed to run for mayor just before the Aug. 14 deadline. Those four candidates — including Thieneman — received a letter from LWV inviting them to an 8 p.m. forum that “will be televised by WAVE-TV,” but made no reference to only participating with other independent candidates.
“Because there were so many (candidates) who did respond, it’s necessary to do the two,” said Murrell.
Murrell said that just like the organizers of the first televised debate two weeks ago, they decided to only allow Fisher and Leet to participate in the live-broadcast forum because no independent candidate had polled at least 12 percent in any poll, though no public polling has been conducted of the mayoral race.
However, she added that “we do feel that we want to be fair to the independent candidates, so that’s why we’re having the second forum for the independent candidates. We wouldn’t have to, but we want to.”
Told last week that Green and Thieneman were upset to just now learn that the format would exclude them from the televised forum with Fischer and Leet, Murrell replied that “they had all been informed of the 8 p.m. time, even though it wasn’t spelled out that that didn’t include everybody, that (Fischer and Leet) were at 7 p.m.”
Thieneman told Insider that he is not sure why the LWV informed him in the invitation that he would be in a televised forum if he was actually going to be excluded from that broadcast, saying of the 8 p.m. reference that “I’m a lot of things, but a mind reader I’m not.” He added that he thought the forums were split because Fischer refused to be on stage with him, as “he knows I’m going to say it as it is.”
Asked about the format of the last televised mayoral debate before the election, Fischer’s campaign manager, Margaret Brosko, said that the two-term mayor “was looking forward to a free-flowing debate full of ideas from across the political spectrum. But whatever the eventual format will be, he will be prepared to share his ideas for the future of Louisville and make the case why he is the best qualified person to lead our city forward.”
Leet’s campaign spokeswoman, Sarah Durand, told Insider that they would “be fine with the organizers extending the debate to 2 hours to accommodate all the candidates,” adding that “in the last debate, an hour was not anywhere near long enough to cover all the failures of the Fischer Administration and reasons Councilwoman Leet is the best choice in this election.”
The other independent candidates for mayor include Billy Ralls, Douglas Lattimore, Henry Owens III, Isaac Marion Thacker IV and Sean Vandevander. Murrell said that most of the independent candidates for mayor had accepted the invitation to the second forum that won’t be aired live, with the exception of Lattimore and Owens.
The League of Women Voters of Louisville is hosting 12 other candidate forums for local races in October, including contests for the state legislature, Jefferson County School board and Metro Council. The first forum is Monday evening for the District 6 school board candidates, which is being held at Marion C. Moore High at 6 p.m.