An official with the City Club of Boise, a civics-minded organization located in the heart of downtown Boise, confirmed Thursday that it decided to only feature Republican and Democratic candidates in a debate slated for Sept. 15, despite what the group said to an Independent candidate in the race who was miffed she was not delivered an invite to the event. The group says that it is working to create a successful event based on past experiences, while the candidate, Jana Kemp, says the group is excluding all viewpoints.
In an e-mail to the club's president, Mikel Ward, former president Martin Peterson, the man who organized a similar event in 2006 for the group, said that event organizers decided to invite Democrat Keith Allred and Republican Butch Otter, the two front-runners and eventual victors in their respective primaries, to replicate the success the group had with the event in 2006. "We only invited the Republican and Democratic candidates because we wanted this to be an appearance that would feature those candidates most likely to run in first and second place in the general election," said Peterson. "In that election, Brady and Otter received 97% of the vote."
Peterson said that the group wanted to confirm reservations and scheduling with Otter and Allred before campaign events made it impossible for both men to appear at one place at one time. "We wanted to tie down the date before we ran into the inevitable candidate scheduling problems that have all too often been the excuse used to keep opposing candidates from making joint appearances," wrote Peterson. Following the initial decision to invite only Otter and Allred, Kemp started questioning the group on its decision to exclude her, fellow Independent Pro-Life, and Libertarian Ted Dunlap. After Kemp's objections, which started around July 1, some board members called on group leadership to set standards by which candidates could qualify for the debate.
Before its regularly scheduled meeting in the first week of August, group leadership found IRS specifications for non-profits that stated that they could exclude candidates who didn't receive at least 15 percent support in a recent and credible poll. Rasmussen Reports, a national political polling agency, released a poll on July 21 which found that Otter was leading Allred 53-36, which meant that the Democrat and the Republican qualified under IRS guidelines. Rasmussen said that other candidates in the race, unnamed in the actual phone survey received 4 percent, while 7 percent remained undecided. The formal decision was made to exclude the three candidates on Aug. 4, and letters were sent to them informing them of their exclusion.
Kemp told IdahoReporter.com that she is shocked by the way the group has handled the event. “As a Landmark Contributor to City Club of Boise I am shocked at the decision-making process and cover-up used by the current City Club Board to justify their decision of whom to invite to the Sept. 15 gubernatorial Forum,” said Kemp. “I find it interesting that rather than owning up to their misdirected decision-making process the Aug. 6 letter I received is a cover-up for their already in motion original invitation process.”
Ward said there were no mischievous intentions on the part of club or board members in the decision-making process. "There was no cover-up,” wrote Ward.