The stage is set for the first official debate in the 2012 Virginia Senate race, and Jamie Radtke is upset that she probably won’t be on it.
Ex-governors Timothy M. Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) -- their respective parties’ prohibitive frontrunners in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D) — have agreed to appear at AP Day at the Capitol in Richmond on Dec. 7. The annual gathering is sponsored by the Virginia AP Managing Editors, the Virginia Capitol Correspondents Association and other statewide organizations. (Disclosure: Washington Post staff writer Anita Kumar serves on a committee that helped to organize AP Day.)
The day’s itinerary will include a 90-minute debate between Allen and Kaine but probably not Radtke, the former Virginia Tea Party Patriots head also gunning for the Republican nomination. The debate rules say a candidate must average 15 percent or better in published, non-candidate primary polls, and raise at least 20 percent as much money as his or her party’s frontrunner by the end of October in order to participate.
Barring a huge swing in the polls, those criteria exclude Radtke and three other lesser-known Republican candidates — Timothy Donner, E.W. Jackson and David McCormick — as well as Democrats Courtney Lynch and Julien Modica.
Radtke, whose campaign is largely premised on the need to buck the establishment of both parties, is not happy.
“Virginia voters: the Mainstream Media wants to choose your Senate candidates for you – and guess what? They picked Washington politicians,” Radtke wrote on her campaign blog, adding: “The AP and VCCA ignore the fact that, by scheduling a general election debate six months before the primary, the Mainstream Media is circumventing the electoral process and telling Virginians that your voices and votes are irrelevant.”
If such criteria were applied to the upcoming presidential primary debates, Radtke said, only GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry would be allowed to participate. (Presidential debates typically do use some rules to exclude candidates — Gary Johnson was not allowed at the Sept. 7 Republican primary debate, for example.)
Radtke asks her supporters to call or e-mail the AP and VCCA to protest her exclusion. And on Twitter, Radtke has appealed to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as well as Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Rep. Ron Paul (Tx.) and businessman Herman Cain, telling the latter three — all underdog GOP presidential candidates — that they would not be allowed to debate if they came to Virginia.
Similarly, Donner complained on Facebook that his exclusion was ”outrageous and entirely unacceptable,” accusing Allen of colluding with the state GOP to short-circuit the primary process.