Governor Jim Douglas never showed at last night's gubernatorial debate sponsored by Vermont Interfaith Action.
Gaye Symington, Anthony Pollina and Peter Diamondstone did. The event at College Street Congregation Church was billed as a forum for the candidates to answer questions about affordable housing, the crisis in home-heating, environment and green jobs, and health care - all issues important to VIA's eleven member congregations in Chittenden and Washington Counties - and burning concerns for all Vermonters.
It should be noted that VIA originally rescheduled the forum from October 15 to last night to accommodate Douglas' busy schedule. Still, the governor bowed out. Fox 44 made that a big deal and called his absence "controversial."
But really controversial - and disgraceful - were the other no-shows (they were not at fault) - three bona fide candidates were never invited.
They are Sam Young, Cris Ericson, and Tony O'Connor.
As a VIA leader and one of the original organisers for this forum, I lobbied for and convinced the staff and other organisers to include Diamondstone in it. But VIA was unwilling to include all seven candidates for governor in this debate about social and economic justice issues important for all Vermonters. VIA likes to build relationships with the power structure, but apparently those powerful people are only in the three major Vermont parties. It also likes to grovel and kiss ass: it begged and cajoled the powerful governor to come last night, yet wouldn't stand for democratic values and include Young, Ericson and O'Connor.
Pollina initially annouced as the Progressive candidate, but changed his mind and decided to run as an independent.
Why didn't VIA include other independents, too?
One of the tenets of VIA is to transform ordinary people into engaged citizens. The three candidates who were not invited last night are involved citizens who care about Vermont and had been all over the state to gather signatures to be placed on the November ballot. VIA does good work; it was at the forefront in bringing attention to the Westlake debacle, saving the Gosse Court Armory, initiating efforts to build affordable housing for UVM employees. I didn't attend the debate; indeed I have disassociated myself from VIA. Not to have had all seven candidates goes against the ideals of democratic engagement and the citizen activism VIA stands for. I don't want to be connected to an such a hypocritical group. Democracy is too important to me.