Shut out of televised debates, Libertarian candidate for governor Adrian Wyllie filed a federal lawsuit Thursday that seeks to force the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida to allow him onstage with Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist next week.
Wyllie’s suit, arguing his free-speech and equal-protection rights are being infringed, largely revolves around the debate organizers’ candidate-participation criteria, which says candidates who earn 15 percent support in a “reputable independent poll” by Sept. 30 can join the debate.
The criteria, Wyllie claims, were changed on him as he picked up support heading into the Oct. 15 debate at Broward College, which is named in the suit along with the nonprofit Leadership Florida and press association, media industry trade and lobby group.
However, as early as Aug. 20 2013, the 15 percent-polling rule was set by the press association. It was specifically reported by the News Service of Florida on that day. Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the press association, said the criteria about polling thresholds predate 2013 and have been around since 2010.
“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?”
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.