With Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race just under six weeks away, things are finally starting to pick up. Or so it seems as candidates begin to roll out their media campaigns and stories about the race are showing up in newspapers and online articles.
Remarkably, 24 candidates have qualified to run for the open seat being vacated by current Sen. David Vitter. As far as anyone can tell, that seems to be a record. Unfortunately, watching media ads isn’t the best way to figure out where any of them really stand on important public policies and scrolling through most of their websites isn’t much help either.
So to help shed light on the policy positions of the major candidates for Senate, CABL is once again partnering with Louisiana Public Broadcasting to air a 90-minute debate focusing on the issues of importance in this election. This year’s Senate race is of particular interest. Not only are there all the major national and international issues to consider, but closer to home things like the federal role in disaster recovery, FEMA rules, and transportation funding are all top of mind matters to many Louisiana citizens and businesses.
To dig into those issues in depth, we have invited the five major candidates in the Senate race to participate in our debate and speak directly to voters in an unfiltered setting. Those candidates are U.S. Representative Charles Boustany, Public Service Commission Foster Campbell, attorney Caroline Fayard, U.S. Representative John Fleming and state Treasurer John Kennedy.
With 24 candidates in the race, it’s clear that to have a meaningful forum and exchange of ideas, certain criteria would have to be established for participation and CABL has done this for each of the many debates we have sponsored. For this debate candidates were invited if they:
1. Have established a campaign committee with a treasurer and campaign staff,
and filed campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission prior
to the debate AND
2. Polled at least 5% in a nonpartisan or news media poll recognized by CABL
released after qualifying AND
3. Raised at least $1 million in campaign funds prior to the debate. Since the
next deadline for campaign finance filing is not until October 15, candidates
who meet the polling criteria and send CABL an affidavit certified by an official
with the campaign that they have raised the required campaign contributions
will be invited to participate pending the filing of the official report.
Because of the sheer number of candidates in this year’s race, it’s been a challenge for many groups to present forums. In fact, some that usually do sponsor debates or candidate gatherings have opted not to hold them this time. But CABL believes these statewide forums are important opportunities for voters to learn about candidates. And while we strongly believe in having inclusive policies for debate participation, we also recognize that to have a discussion within a limited time frame that would be truly beneficial to citizens, not every candidate can participate.
Because of the large number of candidates this year, most of them relative unknowns, there’s been more than the usual amount of attention focused on how you determine which candidates to invite. So here’s the way CABL chose to address it.
In a broad sense there are some generally accepted “rules” for how you go about determining which candidates to invite to participate in public forums. One is that the farther out the forum is from the election, the broader the candidate participation should be. So, for instance, three or four months before the election the best practice is to be more inclusive and invite all candidates who at least appear to be mounting some sort of serious campaigns.
But, as you get closer to Election Day – usually about 30 days out – it is pretty broadly accepted that the criteria for inclusion gets tighter. By that time in the campaign the principle that is suggested is that candidates should be able to demonstrate two things: a “seriousness of purpose” and “significant public support.” Those are the principles we adopted in inviting candidates to participate and we believe our criteria honors both the spirit of fairness and the need to serve the public with a meaningful and manageable exchange of ideas from the candidates.
For many reasons, this year’s Senate election is particularly important. We hope voters will watch the debates, learn more about what the candidates actually stand for, and participate in an informed way on Election Day.