May 6, 2020 by David Silverberg.
WINK-News TV, Fort Myers, Fla., is scheduling an online debate between Democratic congressional candidates in Southwest Florida.
The time and date is awaiting confirmation but it will be moderated by reporter Morgan Rynor.
The scheduled debate follows issuance of a letter yesterday by Southwest Florida’s Democratic congressional candidates and party chairs calling for fair and equal treatment of all candidates in the 19th Congressional District.
Cindy Banyai and David Holden and the Lee and Collier County Democratic parties issued the call in an open letter, stating: “We urge the local media to host a Democratic primary candidate forum. Some local news outlets have already hosted a Republican primary debate, giving the candidates ample time to express their views and platforms.”
It continued: “We strongly believe that the constituents in our district deserve to hear from all candidates equally, regardless of political affiliations.” (The entire letter is included below.)
The letter charged that local news outlets have carried only Republican candidates and that the lack of interest in the Democratic candidates “appears to be a direct attempt to maintain the status quo.”
On April 27, WINK-TV hosted an online debate for only the Republican candidates. Democrats were not invited. Following questions from The Paradise Progressive, WINK scheduled the Monday debate.
To date the only forum involving all candidates of both parties was one online hosted by the Florida Citizens Alliance, a non-profit conservative organization advocating for a return to basic education. The entire 1 hour, 20 minute discussion can be viewed on YouTube.
During the 2018 congressional campaign the Southwest Florida League of Women Voters issued a debate invitation to Democratic candidate David Holden and incumbent Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, setting a date of Sept. 17. However, Rooney replied that he had no availability on that date or any in the future and that all his positions were known. Despite a letter from Holden directly to Rooney and complaints to local media, no debate ever took place.
The full text of the Democratic candidates’ letter:
To Whom It May Concern:
We are writing this letter on behalf of the Lee and Collier County Democratic Parties, and Congressional candidates for Florida Congressional District 19 Cindy Banyai and David Holden. We urge the local media to host a Democratic primary candidate forum. Some local news outlets have already hosted a Republican primary debate, giving the candidates ample time to express their views and platforms.
Despite several requests from the candidates and the county parties, no local news outlets have attempted to put together a Democratic primary candidate forum. Florida’s 19th district is a Republican-leaning district and the lack of interest in the Democratic primaries appears to be a direct attempt to maintain the status quo.
We strongly believe that the constituents in our district deserve to hear from all candidates equally, regardless of political affiliations. Especially now during this national pandemic, constituents are relying on media to cover politics. Unlike normal years when candidates have the opportunities to be out in the district campaigning, meeting voters face-to-face, our candidates have had to take to unconventional methods of campaigning.
Many constituents rely on their local news sources to stay up to date with their political candidates and provide an unbiased view. The fact that Republican candidates have been able to reach these viewers and the Democratic candidates have not been afforded the same opportunities by local news stations is shameful.
We are hoping that this letter spurs the news outlets to do the right thing and reach out to the Lee and Collier County Democratic Parties, Cindy Banyai, and David Holden about scheduling the democratic primary candidate forums.
Dr. Cindy Banyai
Annisa Karim, Chair of Democratic Party of Collier County
Gabriele Spuckers, Chair of Democratic Party of Lee County
Liberty lives in light
©2020 by David Silverberg