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Free & Equal allows California's third party gubernatorial candidates to share their views

by Chris Hinyub, published

On Wednesday, third party gubernatorial candidates came together to discuss Proposition 19 and the need for all-inclusive debates as part of a press conference convened by an organization that speaks out against exclusion in California's electoral process. Fittingly, both Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown declined to participate, indicating once again that Democrats and Republicans have more in common than is popularly believed.  

Members of the two-party system are rarely willing to talk about non-partisan electoral reform. Why should they when such reforms would break up their mutual racket on political power? Discussing the pros and cons of the costly Drug War is also a taboo subject for the status quo. So when third party gubernatorial candidates Chelene Nightingale, Laura Wells, and Dale Ogden joined activists in a public forum to share their views on these issues, it should come as no surprise that neither Whitman nor Brown were willing to comment on Wednesday's meeting.  

And if it weren't for a short write-up in the Sacramento Bee and a local TV news affiliate covering the story, the mainstream media would have utterly ignored the October 6 conference hosted by the Free & Equal Elections Foundation, a non-partisan electoral reform group seeking fair ballot access and all-inclusive debates for qualified statewide and national candidates. The forum focused on two key topics: Proposition 19 (the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 ) and electoral reform – namely, opening up partisan-controlled mainstream political debates to “minor party” candidates.  

Free & Equal's founder, Christina Tobin, also the Libertarian candidate for California Secretary of State, supports Prop 19 which would create a system to regulate the sale of marijuana in much the same way alcohol is controlled.

     “Marijuana prohibition is one of our nation’s – and world’s – greatest propaganda campaigns,” Tobin stated. “The U.S. government has been pulling the wool over the eyes of the American and global public for more than 70 years when it comes to marijuana. Proposition 19 is a chance for California voters to fight back."  

Libertarian Dale Ogden, Green Laura Wells, and Carlos Alvarez of California’s Peace and Freedom Party have all officially supported Prop 19. Constitution Party candidate Chelene Nightingale has declared her neutrality as she researches the issue. According to a press release, Free & Equal representatives contacted both Brown and Whitman who:

     “..have been unavailable, or unwilling, to comment regarding Proposition 19 and all-inclusive debates. However, a statement from the Whitman campaign shows that both Whitman and Brown oppose Proposition 19.”  

Tobin's organization believes it empowers voters with “more voices and more choices” leading to broader political perspectives. Since 2008, Tobin and her group have assembled public forums in which all political parties can participate. The aim is a “free marketplace of ideas.” According to the Free & Equal website, Tobin has a busy month ahead of her, moderating back-to-back, all-inclusive gubernatorial and U.S. Senatorial candidate debates at universities in California, Illinois, and Oklahoma. Tobin also will moderate a university-hosted, all-inclusive U.S. Senatorial candidate debate in Connecticut. Other “open debates” are planned for New York and Kentucky.   Free & Equal has also issued an online petition advocating all-inclusive debates nationwide and the ability to allow “candidates, voters and potential voters to easily voice their opinion on the issue.”  

All California gubernatorial candidates have been invited to speak at the “Sushi, Sake, Socialize” fundraiser, Saturday, October 9 in Mill Valley (also hosted by Free and Equal). Alvarez, Ogden, and Wells are confirmed while Nightingale is attempting to resolve a scheduling conflict. Brown and Whitman have yet to respond. Candidates will be speaking on all-inclusive candidate debates, proportional representation, Proposition 19, and war.  

Guest speakers will include Gerald Murray, national youth coordinator for Laura Chinchilla’s 2010 Costa Rica presidential campaign and international relations liason for Free & Equal, who will speak about the current conflict in Costa Rica and the impact Proposition 19 will likely have on the country.  Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan will also speak. Both will publicly endorse Tobin's bid for California Secretary of State.

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