Green Candidate Margaret Flowers was invited, then disinvited for false reasons; Dr. Flowers: "Democracy requires debates where all candidates are included"
U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Flowers, MD was forcefully removed from Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium Monday evening after she protested her exclusion from a forum sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council and Goucher College.
Flowers had been previously invited twice to the forum - attended by Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards - before being dis-invited two weeks before the event. When the candidates were asked to take the stage, she stepped up to remind the BJC that her exclusion was in violation of IRS regulations that require non-profit organizations to be non-partisan.
Dr. Flowers, who is seeking the Green Party nomination, said, "Many times during the first half of the forum, the moderator and Republican candidates emphasized that in this political moment voters are fed up with the status quo and are looking for alternatives. Yet, the one candidate who was invited and provides an alternative to the the two party system was excluded. I was ready to answer the questions but I was not given the chance. I wanted to participate in this debate, not protest it."
Dr. Flowers was invited by the Baltimore Jewish Council to participate in early January. The forum had been scheduled for February 24th and Flowers accepted the invitation. Two weeks later the forum was delayed to March 28th and Flowers was once again invited to the rescheduled event. At the time, no conditions were placed on the invitation. In mid-March, Flowers was informed that she was no longer invited to participate in the event.
In an e-mail to the Flowers for Senate campaign, the Baltimore Jewish Council stated the reason for her no longer being welcome was because the BJC had "received so many responses." In phone conversations and personal meetings with the Flowers campaign the Council further stated that the event was limited to candidates polling at least 5% in polls, a new requirement that had never been mentioned before to the Flowers campaign.
Flowers pointed out both these reasons were false as only two Democrats were participating, there was no flood of responses; and there have been no polls of Green Party candidates, making it impossible for the BJC to know that Dr. Flowers does not reach the polling threshold. Dr. Flowers asserted that her level of support in the Green Party is well above 5%.
"I attempted to participate in tonight's forum because there can be no democracy when voters aren't allowed to hear from the candidates seeking public office," said Flowers. "As a non-profit entity, the Baltimore Jewish Forum has a responsibility to let all candidates speak. If it chooses to support a candidate or party over another, it should relinquish its non-profit status, act under the rules assigned to political advocacy groups and not solicit tax-deductible contributions."
Dr. Flowers considers equal treatment of all candidates a basic requirement for functional democracy and a matter of basic democratic fairness.
Under Maryland law, Green Party candidates are not permitted to appear on the ballot printed by the state and distributed to voters during the state-funded primary election. "This is one of many ways the two wealth-based parties create an unfair electoral system for those who challenge them", said Flowers.
The Green Party is holding a self-funded primary election that any person registered to vote and affiliated with the Green Party may participate in. By rule, all Green Party nominations are contested. When only one candidate appears on the party's ballot, "none of the above" will automatically be added as an option.
"Because we believe in democracy," said Flowers, "the Green Party is giving each of its members a chance to vote either for the candidate of their choice or for 'none of the above'. The Green Party is not under obligation to give its members a choice, but we do because democracy demands a choice. The Baltimore Jewish Forum is violating democracy and its non-profit status by not allowing attendees at its forum a choice of candidates to hear from.