A federal judge denied Libertarian Adrian Wyllie’s emergency motion seeking access to Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate.
U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn said Wyllie did not meet the requirements for gaining access to the debate hosted by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida. Cohn said the private nonprofit debate sponsors did not change the access rules by increasing the polling threshold required for a qualified candidate, 15 percent.
Also, Cohn ruled, Wyllie’s exclusion was not a violation of his First or Fourteenth Amendment rights. Wyllie argued that, because the event is to be held at the publicly funded BrowardCollege, he had a free-speech right to be onstage with Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist.
But Cohn said BrowardCollege was merely the location and that the event is a “nonpublic forum,” according to case law.
Cohn said the defendants “offer legitimate reasons” for excluding candidates like Wyllie and six others because the goal of the debate is “to provide a forum to inform Florida voters through the meaningful exchange of ideas among those gubernatorial candidates with a reasonable chance of winning the election.”
Wyllie’s campaign is in a statement that his poll numbers were “approaching 15%, which were achieved in a media-driven society where his opponents have outspent him by percentages nowhere approaching Wyllie’s ‘voter per advertising dollar saturation’ shows how unfair the process really is.”
Wednesday’s debate marks the second of three. The final face-off takes place on CNN in Jacksonville on Oct. 21. Polls show Scott and Crist are essentially tied, raising the potential importance of the debates, which Scott limited to three.