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Maryland Politics
Posted at 05:31 AM ET, 10/17/2012

Upstart independent candidate to debate Sen. Cardin and others in Maryland forum

U.S. Senate candidate Rob Sobhani says he has found bipartisanship in Washington, and he doesn’t like it one bit.

In ads, interviews and press releases for the past month, Sobhani, who is running as an independent in Maryland, has accused the two major-party candidates of making a pact to exclude him from public debates.

Not anymore. On Tuesday, Sobhani received word that Salisbury University’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement has agreed to sponsor a debate among all senatorial candidates at 3 p.m. on Oct. 30 in Holloway Hall.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D), Republican candidate Dan Bongino, and Libertarian candidate Dean Ahmad have confirmed their plans to attend, university spokesman Richard Culver said late Tuesday. Culver said the university was still attempting to contact other unaffiliated candidates as well.

The debate over debates has occupied a lot of Sobhani’s message since he entered the campaign in September, with radio and TV spots calling out the major r parties for avoiding debate with him. A poll last month by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies suggests that Sobhani could outpoint the Republican for second place behind Cardin, who appears easily on course to win reelection.

The former Georgetown University professor said Friday that he had reserved an hour of radio time on WBAL in Baltimore to air a three-way debate on Oct. 21, with advance taping whenever it was convenient for the two major-party candidates. But the two major party candidates refused, Sobhani said.

This week, Sobhani’s campaign said Cardin and Bongino even went so far as to hold a “stealth debate” in Frederick. On Monday, both major-party candidates shared a crowded stage with Republican, Green Party, and Libertarian candidates from the 8th Congressional district during a forum sponsored by the Frederick County Commission for Women. But Tish Honse, a member of the commission, said Sobhani had not been invited to Monday’s forum because he wasn’t listed as a candidate on the Vote-USA Website the commission used to assemble the list of candidates.

Cardin and Bongino have said separately they would appear at any forum for which they received an invitation if their schedules allowed. But both said that it hasn’t been easy to find open dates this far into their campaigns.

Cardin, who was a featured speaker at a Baltimore forum on affordable housing on Wednesday, said in an interview afterwards that it’s not up to the candidates to arrange the debates anyway. It’s up to the sponsoring organizations to include Sobhani or other unaffiliated or third-party candidates, he said.

“I’m for participating in as many as possible,” Cardin said following the Frederick debate. “There’s got be interest.”

Bongino suggested that Sobhani has tried to muscle his way into the political process with threats and money. From the first, when the two campaigns began discussing a possible debate and Bongino’s campaign said they could not find a mutually acceptable time, Sobhani threatened to transform a logistical problem into a political issue, Bongino said. And Sobhani did, in a blitz of TV and radio ads.

“He tries to bully people with his money,” Bongino said in an interview last week.

Sobhani has spent about $4.6 million on the campaign, with about $2.5 million of that going to ads, according to the Oct. 15 quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission and his campaign.

By  |  05:31 AM ET, 10/17/2012

 
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