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Broadcasters’ governor debate criteria draws criticism

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Criticism has come quickly in the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association decision to limit the number of Democratic candidates for governor it will allow on stage during the organization’s live, televised debate this summer.

Only four out of the 10 candidates will be allowed to participate in the July 27 debate in Madison. Those four will be based on who gets the highest numbers on a Marquette University Law School poll.

“To me that’s ridiculous, and it’s totally arbitrary,” Matt Rothschild with Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said. “What if the fifth person running is just one percentage point behind the fourth? What’s the magic about four?”

The criteria announced by the WBA Monday also was criticized by the Democratic party as “unfair.” Another group called for all 10 candidates to boycott the WBA event.

“It’s totally unfair to these candidates,” Rothschild said. “ The Broadcasters, by Fiat, are going to determine who the Wisconsin public gets to listen to?

“I think the Broadcasters have a big responsibility to give the voting public a real choice. They should not pre determining who our candidates are or who our elected officials are.”

Marquette University pollster Charles Franklin isn’t real happy about the WBA criteria, either, saying, “We think the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association should not use our poll in this way.”

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign wonders if the Broadcasters Association recalls crowded and very lively debates with Republican candidates for president in 2015, when there were 10 candidates on stage.

“No one was the worse for the ware and people got to see them up close,” Rothschild said. “They could see Scott Walker didn’t cast a shadow, for instance. And they could see that Trump was unlike any politician that they’d ever seen, which was part of his attraction.”

The WBA will hold another debate for the Republican US senate candidates on July 21.

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