Maurice Ferre, running a long-shot candidate for the United Stats Senate, has filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade District Court over his exclusion from next Tuesday’s debate, being hosted by the Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. A trial date has been set for Monday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The campaign is seeking an injunction, charging that the debate organizers violated their own rules, and are now unfairly excluding the candidate.
Ferre made the announcement during a conference call with reporters Friday. According to the campaign, the organizers initially stated that candidates would be invited provided they reached a 15 percent threshold in a Mason Dixon poll held at least 45 days before the debate. The latest poll was conducted just last week, and Ferre scored 8 percent in the recent poll. He has scored between 4 and 8 percent in previous polls by other organizations. Ferre said organizers told him that ignoring the 45 day rule would make it easier for him to qualify. But he counters that having violated the rules, the organizers cannot go forward as planned.
“Once they saw that they violated their own rules, they stated to us that this was really to my benefit because the closer the poll was to the election, the more it would give me the opportunity to go up in the polls,” an argument Ferre says he and his campaign rejected.
“If this was a debate hosted by an entirely for-profit, private entity, like a TV station, I think they would have the perfect right to decide who participates in the debate” Ferre said. “But this is a non-profit (Leadership Florida) and the Florida Press Association.”
Ferre added that he feels the organizers’ decision is stifling the opportunity for voters to get all the information they need before heading to the polls.
“I think that it is undemocratic,” Ferre said. “It is patently unfair. I think it is a denial of the right of the people of the State of Florida, in this case of the Democratic party, to be completely informed and it is totally illogical for the Florida Press Association to be involved in a denial of access so that people can make intelligent decisions in the electoral process.”
Ferre said he is not filing his case on First Amendment grounds, but rather on the grounds of “negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of contract,” adding that “they had established rules, very clear and ver simple.”
“I’m holding water for the issue, and the issue is fairness,” Ferre said. “The issue is the ability of voters to hear the candidates. After the presidency, there’s nothing more important than the 100 elected Senators of the Republic and the 50 governors of the states.”
The hearing is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. before Miami-Dade circuit court judge Israel Reyes.