U.S. Senate candidate fights for chance to debate

January 15, 2010 2:53:10 PM PST
Candidates have clashed in the Democratic primary for U.S. senator from Illinois.Jacob Meister claims he is being unfairly excluded from a candidates' debate scheduled for later in January.

One look inside his office, and there is no question that Meister has a real Democratic primary campaign under way for the Senate.

"We will have spent, by the end, at least $1 million. We've got 33 paid staff. We've got six offices around the state," Meister said.

So far, the Chicago attorney says the effort has aired over 2,000 television ads around the state.

However, Meister--who did participate in this week's debate held at ABC7 Chicago-- is not invited to the televised forum on WTTW Channel 11 next Wednesday.

The public television station is using an early December Chicago Tribune survey that lumped Meister with other candidates who polled less than 5 percent.

"Two months ago is when that polling is from. It is completely just irrelevant at this point," said Meister.

Meister accused fellow candidate and former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman with scheming to keep Meister out of debates.

"It's just not true. Each station and debates have their own rules. They decide without any influence from us," said Hoffman.

"He clearly is working hard, spending to keep me away from undecided voters," Meister said.

At ABC7, Meister pointed virtually all of his attacks at Hoffman, who tried to ignore the Chicago attorney to press his attacks on reported frontrunner Alexi Giannoulias.

"If there were two people up there rather than five, it would be easier for me to draw a distinction between me and who I think is my main competitor, and that's Alexi Giannoulias," said

WTTW producer Jay Smith told ABC7 Friday:

"It's not about how much money [Meister] spends, it's about bringing our viewers candidates who have a reasonable chance of winning."

What rankles Meister is that the station is using an early December poll that does not account for all the campaigning he has done during the past six weeks.

"I had 20,000 people sign a petition to get me on the ballot. That alone should warrant putting me on this debate," Meister said.

Smith told ABC7 Chicago if any poll released anywhere over the weekend shows Meister with 5 percent of the vote, he will be included in the debate.

But how can WTTW have such confidence in somebody else's poll, and shouldn't the public have a right to know more about a candidate who is so much in the media?