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Excluded from Fla gov debates, Libertarian sues

Published Oct. 10, 2014

Marc Caputo, Miami Herald

Thursday, October 9, 2014 12:13pm

Shut out of televised debates, Libertarian candidate for governor Adrian Wyllie filed a lawsuit Thursday that seeks to force the Florida Press Association to allow him onstage with Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist, the Miami Herald has learned.

Wyllie could not be immediately reached for comment, but the head of the association confirmed Wyllie filed suit in Broward County, where the debate takes place Wednedsay at Broward College in conjunction with Leadership Florida.

Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the association, said Wyllie didn't make the cut because he failed to register 15 percent support in at least one statewide credible public-opinion survey from a nonpartisan polling organization by Sept. 30.

"But we want to be fair and consistent," Ridings said. "There are 10 candidates for governor and why would it be fair to them to change our criteria?"

Ridings said the criteria for candidate participation has been in place since before the 2010 elections. He noted that Wyllie, who garnered as much as 13 percent support in a recent poll from the Republican-leaning polling firm 0ptimus, appears to be improving his standing in the polls.

But it's not enough.

"We're not going to change criteria in mid-stream because we like a candidate and he's doing better," Ridings said.

Wyllie is planning a protest at another televised debate to be held Friday at Telemundo in Miramar, where Crist and Scott will face off for the first time. The debate will be broadcast at 7 p.m. that night.

The third and final debate between the two major candidates takes place Oct. 21 in Jacksonville.

Crist wanted more debates, but Scott would only agree to three. Scott's running mate, Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, has also ignored calls from Crist's running mate, Annette Taddeo, to debate on television.

Four polls this week indicate Crist is starting to edge Scott, though the Democrat's lead is within the margin of error of the surveys, meaning the race is essentially a tie right now.