Aug 11, 2010

AR: Taxpayer Funded Group Refuses to Include Green and Independent Candidates for US Senate in Debate Forum

A press release from the Trevor Drown campaign:
The Association of Arkansas Counties, a taxpayer funded special interest group will hold a debate between Senator Blanche Lincoln and Congressman John Boozman at their taxpayer funded convention Friday morning. Despite emails and phone calls to the executive director and the members of the board, they refuse to allow the other two Senate Candidates participate. Supporters of independent candidate Trevor Drown and Green Party, Mayor John Gray will join in solidarity to protest this action to attempt to quell our 1st Amendment right. If you are able to go, please join us at the front entrance of the convention center on Friday, August 13th, 0830. Bring your signs of support and protest. Trevor made the following statement in reference to this event and the action of the AAC:

"I served this country in combat and thousands of Arkansans signed the petition to place me on the ballot. Now a tax-payer funded organization, which lobby's for elected county officials in Arkansas schedules a debate and closes it to two candidates; the Republican and the Democrat. Is this the American way? "

Additional Information: The Association of Arkansas Counties, a tax-payer funded Association has scheduled a forum at their convention for the two major party candidates, August 13th, 2010 in Hot Springs. Although they have called it a forum it is a debate. The definition of a forum is a public meeting place for open discussion. Senator Lincoln confirms this is a debate by sending out the following statement in a press release. "Arkansans know I have been an independent voice who always puts our state first, and they deserve to learn more about Congressman Boozman's record. I have accepted several debate invitations, and I look forward to the opportunity of comparing our respective records in every corner of the state."

As stated in their website, the AAC's mission is: "supports and promotes the idea that all elected officials must have the opportunity to act together in order to solve mutual problems as a unified group. To further this goal, the Association of Arkansas Counties is committed to providing a single source of cooperative support and information for all counties and county and district officials. The overall purpose of the Association of Arkansas Counties is to work for the improvement of county government in the state of Arkansas. The Association accomplishes this purpose by providing legislative representation, on-site assistance, general research, training, various publications and conferences to assist county officials in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of their office."

Volunteers of the Trevor Drown (I) for US Senate effort contacted the Association by phone and email. Here is the email:

I contacted your office earlier today to speak with you about the upcoming US Senate debate in Hot Springs. There are actually four candidates for US Senate, a Green Party candidate and the other is Trevor Drown. Mr. Drown was able to get on the ballot as an independent using the petition process. This was the first time in more than 30 years and no easy accomplishment. To not allow Mr. Drown to participate in the debate process would be considered by many a manipulation of the political process by the two party system. This is especially disturbing considering what your organization is about, who they represent, what they do and your mission statement.

Shortly thereafter, we called the AAC and talked with the Executive Director Mr. Chris Villines. After a few minutes of back and forth, he stated he would be doing us a favor by not inviting Trevor Drown because he would not have anything to offer. Since he will not be voting on any of the upcoming bills his input was not something the members would want to hear. Furthermore, Mr. Villines stated that the event was closed to only the members of the Association, media and the Senate candidates of the two main political parties. So regardless if he shows up and paid his way in Trevor could not even be a member of the audience. When challenged on this, he simply stated I don't make that decision. Other people do and he would get back to us.

Let's analyze this: An organization made up of mostly elected officials at the county level from around the state can see no value of including an independent to debate at their forum. This organization made up of County Judges, Election Officials, Sheriffs, Tax Collectors, Coroners, etc. are usually elected from one of the two major parties. These Republicans and Democrats who make up less than 8% of the registered voters in the state have decided that no one else outside the two-party system should participate in the democratic process. Democracy is only allowed by those that are members of an exclusive club.

What is ironic is this organization is funded by the tax-payers of Arkansas. The dues and attendance of this event in Hot Springs is paid by taxpayers as mandated by state law. What can we do? Well by the time you have read this newspaper we will have done it. Right now, our volunteers around the state are contacting their county officials by phone, email and letter. They will voice their objection to this "good old boy's" system. . It is sad that someone who has served this country in battle cannot even be considered a viable candidate by the two major parties. That is unless you are part of the two party system. Many of us view this of another prime example that the two-party system is broken. Sadly, the common person is the one that pays the price.

Trevor Drown is a former green beret who served in combat in Afghanistan. In May 2010 he made Arkansas history by becoming the first US Senate Candidate in more than 30 years to be placed on the ballot as an independent. More than 14,000 people signed the petition to certify him as a candidate. This was done by spending less than $7,000. Trevor works for UPS and he and his wife own a small business in Russellville Arkansas.

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