Thursday, October 19, 2006

Commercial During Debate Exposes Left Out Candidates

University of Connecticut Daily Campus
By Steven Durel Posted: 10/19/06

Viewers that watched last night's gubernatorial debate between Republican Governor Jodi Rell and Democratic challenger John DeStefano on television, might have been a little surprised to see the event accompanied by an unlikely television ad from Clifford Thornton, the Green Party nominee for governor. Many voters had not previously heard of Thornton, nor the Concerned Citizens Party nominee Joe Zdonczyk, probably in part because these men were both shut out from debating Rell and DeStefano in this year's live televised procedures.

The purpose of last night's advertisement was to send a message to viewers at home - money and power have corrupted the electoral process.

The Green Party's commercial opened with a graphic reading, "Only 2 podiums?? Cliff Thornton excluded from debates."

The ad then showed a crowd of Green party supporters protesting outside New London's Garde Arts Center during the first debate on Oct. 9. The camera moves around the group as two voiceovers can be heard.

"We want to have freedom of speech," the first voice said.

"I'm here to protest the fact that Cliff Thornton is being left out of the debates," another said.

The viewer then sees Thornton's campaign manager, Tim McKee, who said, "We want to talk about issues that these candidates are not going to talk about."

Thornton himself finally appeared on the screen.

"In many respects, being Green is like being black because you're being excluded left and right on many issues," Thornton said. "I'm Cliff Thornton and I approve this message."

At the end of the commercial there is another graphic reading, "CT 4 CT Let all voices be heard. Let Cliff in the debates," while the crowd can be heard chanting, "This is not democracy!"

According to Thornton's field manager, Ken Krayeske, the commercial cost $400 to produce and $3,300 to air.

Krayeske noted that, running by that same average of $110 per second, the major party candidates each got almost $396,000 of free airtime during the two debates. He questioned why the small parties with no money are forced to pay for short spots on television while the rich ones are given sustained periods at no cost.

"They have their boots firmly entrenched on our windpipes," Krayeske said.

Neither Rell nor DeStefano seemed to walk away from the first debate as a clear winner.

According to polls done by UConn's Center for Survey Research and Analysis for the Hartford Courant, before the debate 56 percent of voters said that they would vote for Rell and 28 percent for DeStefano.

Afterwards, however, Rell's support fell to 50 percent while DeStefano's showing stayed the same. At the same time, the portion of those polled who chose "no choice" rose from 15 percent to 21 percent.

Both major party nominees blame each other for the exclusion of minor party candidates. While the DeStefano campaign demanded that third parties be absent from two of the debates, suggesting that they would only be a distraction, Gov. Rell had simultaneously refused to meet more than twice for what Rell spokesman Richard Harris called "an extended series of debates."

Still, Thornton himself blames both parties equally for his banishment.

"They're both complicit in this," Thornton said, adding, "Why are they so afraid of us?"

Ultimately, the third-party candidate hypothesizes that it is probably because of his overall progressive message that he is being shut out. He suggests that Canadian-style healthcare, free college tuition and an end to the War on Drugs are concepts that have all been deemed far too radical by local ruling elites.

Despite the risk that the Connecticut Green Party is taking by devoting all of its funds and effort into making an impact in this one election, Thornton nevertheless remains confident that they are doing the right thing.

"The most important thing is getting the ideas out to the people," Thornton said.
© Copyright 2006 The Daily Campus

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