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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Independent U.S. Senate candidates protest, unsuccessfully sue for inclusion in Murphy-Rubio debate



Upset that they've been barred from participating in tonight's televised U.S. Senate debate between Republican incumbent Marco Rubio and Democratic challenger and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a couple of the independent candidates in the contest are venting their frustration.

"When you’re marketing for public awareness and telling the public 'Marco Rubio vs. Patrick Murphy' are the two candidates, you’re misleading the public and you’re depriving the public of the opportunity of knowing there’s five other candidates," no-party-affiliation candidate Steven Machat, of Miami, told the Miami Herald's editorial board Monday in a phone interview. 

Machat unsuccessfully sued in both federal and state court with a demand that he and the other independent and third-party Senate candidates be included in the two debates scheduled. A federal judge last week said U.S. District Court wasn't the proper venue for the case, and a state judge in Miami separately rejected Machat's request for an injunction in an order Monday morning.

Meanwhile, Tony Khoury, a Miami businessman and fellow NPA candidate, plans to protest outside the University of Central Florida's Fairwinds Alumni Center just before the debate starts at 7 p.m. -- and he's threatening to crash the event.

In a statement Monday morning, Khoury's campaign said he would "attempt to attend" the debate to make his point of why he and the other candidates ought to be included.

"Voters are tired of the duopoly that the two major parties hold over politics, and nowhere is that more destructive than in our debates," Khoury said. "This systematic stifling of opinions and solutions is killing our cherished American Democracy."

Only Murphy and Rubio were invited to participate in the two scheduled debates for Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race. Debates typically have cut-offs for participation, such as how well candidates are doing in the polls.

Aside from Murphy and Rubio, the other candidates on the ballot are Libertarian Paul Stanton and independent candidates Khoury, Machat, Basil Dalack and Bruce Nathan.

[Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2016 5:00pm]


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