On Monday, Sept. 24, The Oklahoman newspaper hosted a gubernatorial debate at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Three candidates are seeking the office, but only two were invited to the debate.
Libertarian Chris Powell was excluded from the debate. Powell said he was excluded because he had insufficient support, suggesting that Powell wouldn’t be competitive with Democrat Drew Edmondson and Republican Kevin Stitt.
In response to the snub, Powell and the Oklahoma Libertarian Party arranged a rally outside the newspaper debate, calling for unbiased media coverage.
The crowd of 21 people belted out chants of “On the ballot, on the stage,” with some supporters suggesting exclusion from the debate makes it harder for their candidates to garner the level of support needed to be competitive.
“It’s hard to poll well in polls you’re not included in,” said Erin Adams, Chairperson of the Oklahoma Libertarian Party.
Standing on top of an old, red newspaper stand emblazoned on either side with The Oklahoman’s logo, Powell railed against his exclusion.
“They don’t want you to hear me. They don’t want the people of Oklahoma to hear me,” Powell said. “They justified excluding me based on a poll that was released on Tuesday night and they announced the forum before dawn on Wednesday morning. So either they arranged this forum in the middle of the night, or they aren’t being truthful about their decision to exclude me.”
Powell said representatives from The Oklahoman ignored the rally.
“They don’t think that all of you matter,” he said. “They don’t think that any of us matter.”
In the Sunday edition of The Oklahoman, in a story promoting the debate, political reporter Chris Casteel issued a statement regarding Powell. Casteel said though Powell was “not included in the forum, we will cover his campaign’s progress in the pages of our newspaper and our websites.”
Powell said his campaign would only participate in debates and forums run by “credible organizations,” and stressed participation on an equal footing with the other candidates as a key factor.
The campaigns for Powell, Stitt, and Edmondson have each confirmed their participation in an upcoming debate. The event will be held in Tulsa on Oct. 23, and is being run by The Oklahoma Academy, a non-profit policy group.