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Independent Maine Candidates File Complaint After Being Excluded From WMTW Senate Debate

Kris Bridges
For Maine Public
Lisa Savage at Maine Public's U.S. Senate debate on Oct. 15, 2020.

The two independent candidates in Maine’s U.S. Senate race have filed a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission for being excluded from this Wednesday’s debate hosted by Portland television station WMTW.

The complaint by independents Max Linn and Lisa Savage argues that WMTW’s decision is not based on objective criteria and could constitute an illegal in-kind contribution to the campaigns of Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon.

Savage says Maine people expect the station to invite all qualified candidates to participate.

“We now have 2,000 people that have signed a petition, an online petition, like 800 of those were in the last day and a half,” she says.

In an email to the Savage campaign, an attorney for WMTW defends the decision, saying neither independent has demonstrated strong enough support to win, and that the law does not require they be invited.

Savage says that ignores the potential impact of ranked-choice voting in the race. And she points out that Maine voters have elected two independent governors and an independent U.S. senator.

“It is a fairness question. After the fact they made those criteria and then when you look at those criteria, they had Zak Ringelstein in their debate last election season,” she says. “He was slated as a Democrat but he raised way less money than I have, and he was polling about the same. But, he had a ‘D’ after his name.”