In response to an October 6, 2010 Jefferson Area Tea Party “request for accountability,” Jeff Clark, independent candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District, conditionally has offered to withdrawal from the race and to throw his support behind Republican Robert Hurt.
The condition, delineated in the final paragraph of Clark’s letter, hinges on Hurt’s consent to allow Clark’s participation in an upcoming televised debate between Hurt and Democrat Congressman Tom Perriello.
Read Clark’s reply as sent to Carole Thorpe, Chair of the Jefferson Area Tea Party:
I wanted to take a moment respond to a recent press release by Carole Thorpe of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. In the release, Mrs. Thorpe correctly characterizes conversations we had early on in my campaign. I did inform Mrs. Thorpe that it was not my intention to be only a spoiler and if that were the case I would drop out. However, that was before my participation was systematically limited by my Republican opponent.
Since our first conversation, many things have developed in our campaign. State Senator Hurt, in a blatant act of political snobbery and elitism, refused to participate in any debates or forums in which I was an invited participant. He held his breath and stomped his feet like a spoiled child until he got his way. Because of his actions, we have been excluded from the all-important televised debates coming up this month. Not only are Senator Hurt’s actions elitist, but also blatantly hypocritical. When challenged by his Republican Party primary opponent, Laurence Verga, to a one on one debate, Mr. Hurt refused releasing the following statement:
“Ignoring all the other candidates as Mr. Verga has done in this request is nothing more than a political stunt and is frankly insulting to the fine contributions each of the other candidates have brought to this campaign,”.
In 2006, the Republican Party encouraged and argued for an Independent candidate to be included in the debates and forums because that Independent had a “Green” designation beside his name and the Republican Party felt it would help their candidate.
Recently, we took our case of being excluded from the debates to the Rutherford Institute, a world renowned bipartisan civil liberties organization. The Rutherford institute listened to our plea and agreed this was an egregious manipulation of the 1st amendment. They see that this is not only happening here in the 5th district but across the country. This tactic is being used by both major political parties to systematically eliminate or limit Independent candidates from the American political process. The Supreme Court of the United States has made it clear:
“(C)andidate debates are of exceptional significance in the electoral process….Deliberation On the positions and qualifications of candidates is integral to our system of government, and the electoral speech may have its most profound and wide spread impact when it is disseminated through televised debates”
If I were to drop from the race now, it would end the case currently being handled by the Rutherford Institute and would without question allow this despicable practice to continue.
Understanding the importance and potential impact of the televised debates, I privately negotiated with intermediaries of the Hurt campaign to be included in one televised debate. I stated that if I were to be included in one televised debate – and if I did not poll at 25% or higher in any independent poll immediately following the debate – that I would drop out and put my support behind Hurt. I went so far as agreeing to set up a debate in mid to late September in an attempt to give his campaign plenty of time for one on one debates in October. Mrs Thorpe can confirm this because it was through the Jefferson Area Tea Party that we were trying to arrange the debate. I made this offer because I felt that if I were to be included in one televised debate that it would at least have given me the opportunity to compete and to speak to those undecided in the 5th district. I want to make this clear – setting a purposely high poll number, there is 99.9 % chance I would have been out of the race by October 1st and my name could have been removed from the ballot. It was because of Hurt’s refusal of my offer that I am still in the race and felt compelled to seek the help of the Rutherford Institute.
I respect the stance the Jefferson Area Tea Party has taken and how they, before anyone else, issued a statement saying all candidates should be included in the debates, while other Tea Party organizations in the area simple ignored or justified Hurt’s blatant manipulation or disregard for the 1st amendment. It is my sincere hope that Mrs. Thorpe understands based on the circumstances and events that have developed since or first conversation that I feel I cannot drop out of the race at this time. However, I will publicly extend the following offer to State Senator Hurt; if you allow me to participate in one televised debate and if I do not poll at 25% or higher immediately following that debate in an independent poll, I will drop out of the race and support you in your bid for Congress.
Jeffrey A. Clark
Virginia’s 5th District
US House of Representatives
Campaign Office (434) 793-1100