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This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Even Progressive Groups Shut Out Progressive Candidates

By       Message Anne Meador     Permalink
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Margaret Flowers, Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland
(image by Margaret Flowers for Senate)

At the first debate for left-leaning candidates in the U.S. Senate race to represent Maryland, there's no place on the stage for the most progressive candidate on the ballot.

Dr. Margaret Flowers, candidate for the Green Party, claims she's been forced out because one of the Democratic contenders, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, is afraid that she will expose him as a creature of Wall Street. She's blazing mad and vows to attend with or without the host's blessing.

"I told them I am serious about this campaign. I want to win," she said. "I'm gonna fight to be heard in order to be elected. I'm gonna show up there whether or not I'm invited."

According to the "dis-invitation" from Montgomery County, Maryland group Progressive Neighbors, "Van Hollen was balking at a wide-open debate that included Greens and Republicans."

It's not exactly a crowded stage. At the moment, only two people have been invited to the January 17 forum: Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Donna Edwards, who are vying for the Democratic Party's nomination. If Rep. Elijah Cummings declares his intention to run, he'll also be invited.

In September, Progressive Neighbors successfully held a forum on environmental issues with eight participants, which attracted an audience of 200.

Darian Unger, President of Progressive Neighbors--an organization which he describes as dedicated to promoting progressive candidates for elected office on principle, not Party--categorically denies that either participant in the January forum wanted Flowers excluded. "We have received no such pressure from either Representative Van Hollen or Representative Edwards," he said in an email.

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In fact, he said in a phone interview, the whole thing is a big misunderstanding. Flowers wasn't invited to the January forum in the first place, so she couldn't have been uninvited.

"Margaret--I really think that Margaret felt like she was invited and then dis-invited, right? And that wasn't the intent. I understand that that's how it came across," Unger said.

On October 7, steering committee member Deborah Schumann sent an email to Flowers which asked, "Would you be willing be to participate?" in Progressive Neighbors' "forum/debate" for the Senate race planned for early December. She offered to accommodate Flowers' schedule.

According to Unger, that never happened. Or it was a mistake. Or something. Flowers had only ever been considered for a second event planned after the Democratic primaries were over.

"We might not have been the most organized about it, there were different people calling different campaigns about dates and stuff. So there was a little bit of confusion," Unger said.
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On November 4, Schumann sent an email which uninvited Flowers: "The committee decided that we will have only people who are running in the Democratic primary," she said. "Van Hollen was balking at a wide-open debate that included Greens and Republicans."

To add insult to injury, Schumann asked whether Flowers would be willing to be a moderator for the debate. "[Y]ou would be perfect for asking about health care," she wrote.

"I am a candidate now and I need to be treated as one," Flowers responded.

Darian Unger says Schumann's comment about Van Hollen was an "honest to goodness mistake." So what made Schumann hint at some kind of interference by Van Hollen? "Several people have speculated exactly that," Unger said. "So I think at some point, I don't know, someone's speculation made it into a... It was never more than one person's speculation that made it into an email, and it was literally a mistake."

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Anne Meador is a co-founder of DC Media Group, a grassroots collective of journalists devoted to covering the news and issues from the people's perspective.

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