In the race for governor, Adrian Wyllie is the mandate-killer. That alone makes him too important to ignore.
The Libertarian Party candidate belongs on stage alongside Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist at Wednesday’s statewide TV debate at Broward College in Davie.
But barring some dramatic last-minute intervention from a federal judge, Wyllie will remain on the sidelines.
Wyllie belongs on TV, at the very least, to show voters what they are doing by casting votes for him to protest the mean-spirited, vote-against-the-other-guy race between Scott and Crist.
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For example, Wyllie says that if elected, he’ll seek to abolish all property taxes on owner-occupied homes and cut the state budget by 30 percent, or about $23 billion. Voters deserve to know how that would eviscerate public schools and healthcare.
Wyllie opposes what he sees as pervasive big-government intrusion into liberties. He opposes Common Core and the REAL ID driver’s license law and favors full legalization of marijuana.
Several recent polls show Wyllie hovering near 10 percent, a surprisingly strong showing for a minor-party candidate. But the debate sponsors, Leadership Florida and Florida Press Association, set the threshold for Wyllie’s participation at 15 percent. Since he has not reached that number, they excluded him. He filed suit in federal court in Fort Lauderdale and hopes for a hearing by Wednesday before U.S. District Judge James Cohn.
The Florida Press Association has enlisted a team of attorneys to oppose Wyllie’s inclusion, meaning that news outlets across Florida, including the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald, FPA members, have become a party to silencing Wyllie.
The establishment’s determination to keep Wyllie out will only help his candidacy by enhancing his image as a little guy not controlled by big money and power.
His exclusion also reinforces one of the worst perceptions about politics: that it’s of, by and for insiders, accessible only to the rich and well-known.
Wyllie’s presence on the ballot, along with two others who are running with no party affiliation, Glenn Burkett and Farid Khavari, guarantees that the next governor won’t come close to winning a majority.
Every vote for Wyllie is one fewer vote for Scott or Crist, which is why he’s the mandate-killer.
Consider this possibility: If the two NPA candidates get a combined 2 percent of the vote and Wyllie gets 10 percent, that means the other two will divide 88 percent of the vote. If the race is as tight as polls suggest, Scott or Crist could win with about 45 percent. (Scott received 48.9 percent four years ago.)
That will make the winner look weaker just when he'll need to look strong.
Such a result eliminates any possibility of a second-term mandate for Scott, and would complicate Crist’s challenges as a Democratic convert in dealing with the Republican power structure in Tallahassee the next four years.
Besides, it’s not as if Round 2 between Scott and Crist will rival the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Their first go-round Friday on Telemundo was a yawner, as both men stuck to carefully memorized talking points.
Steve Bousquet is the Tallahassee bureau chief of the Tampa Bay Times.