A Maryland Senate debate was delayed this Wednesday when Green Party candidate Dr. Margaret Flowers crashed the stage in protest of the media’s failure to include her in the debate.
The debate between U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and state Delegate Kathy Szeliga was sponsored by the Baltimore Sun, the League of Women Voters and the University of Baltimore.
Van Hollen, a Democrat, has served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Szeliga is the Republican minority whip in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Shortly before the beginning of the debate, an audience member stood up to question the two candidates about Flowers’ absence on the stage.
“Before we begin, do you believe Margaret Flowers should have been included in this debate?” the man asked the candidates.
Both candidates claimed they have no issue sharing the debate stage with Flowers.
Flowers then made her way to the stage, placing herself between the candidates’ podiums.
The audience member continued to address the candidates. “Voters should hear from Dr. Flowers as well as the other candidates. You shouldn’t be having a closed debate. She’s a legitimate candidate who should be included.”
Flowers then boke her silence, proclaiming that she is “a valid candidate on the ballot.”
“I have a statewide campaign. I don’t understand why I’m not here,” she continued. “I think it’s important for voters to understand the differences between myself and Congressman Van Hollen and Delegate Szeliga, otherwise they don’t really know. I mean, you say you’re a public university and you want to educate the public, but without having a full public discussion, how does that happen?”
As Flowers attempted to make her case, police approached the stage and escorted her out of the event. “This is why our democracy is sham. The system is rigged,” she yelled. “You need to know this sham is going on because most of you are not aware. Policies are being put forth without a full discussion. People don’t know what their choices are.”
Once police escorted Flowers from the room, a different audience member stood, stating “Anybody that’s laughing at that right now, it’s bullshit. We need to have open debates at the national level, at the state level. At all levels. America is supposed to be a model for democracy, and the corporate media telling us that we can’t have more people at these debates. When is it going to end?”
The man filming the video could be heard yelling, “Give her the third podium and let Flowers debate!”
Attempting to restore order and begin the debate, police asked both the cameraman and the outspoken audience member to leave the premises.
The description of the video, posted by the Flowers campaign, said the debate disruption was an attempt to demand open debates “in a two party system in which media and Democrats collude to exclude candidates that are on the ballot.”
The campaign video also claimed “it’s a sham debate until they include Dr. Margaret Flowers U.S. Senate candidate of the Green Party.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, in order to participate in the debate, a candidate needed to meet the 15 percent polling threshold set by the debate organizers, and Flowers did not.
The Sun also reports that with less than three weeks to go until the election, polls show Van Hollen leads the race by roughly 30 points.