SPRINGFIELD -- Green Party candidate for governor Rich Whitney complained Wednesday that he is being unfairly kept out of three upcoming debates in the Chicago area.

SPRINGFIELD -- Green Party candidate for governor Rich Whitney complained Wednesday that he is being unfairly kept out of three upcoming debates in the Chicago area.


At a Statehouse news conference, Whitney hinted of possible legal action because he said one of the events is co-sponsored by WTTW-TV in Chicago, a public television station.


"Let all of the candidates be given a chance," Whitney said. "Illinois cannot afford to elect a governor who doesn't have a plan to solve our structural deficit. I am the only candidate in the race that has a plan."


Only Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington have been invited to participate in the joint appearances. They include one Sunday sponsored by Elmhurst College, to be broadcast by WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station; one Oct. 20 sponsored by the League of Women Voters and WLS-TV of Chicago; and one Oct. 28, sponsored by WTTW and the City Club of Chicago.


Whitney said he's being excluded because he hasn't shown well in polls.


"Public opinion polling is a black box," Whitney said. "The Quinn and Brady numbers are all over the map. We can't rely on the polling numbers."


Jan Czarnik, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois, said the league has had a policy "for some time" that a candidate needs to poll at least 10 percent to be included in a debate sponsored by the league.


"It's not our job to be building support for candidacies or parties. That's their job," Czarnik said. "It's our job to bring together candidates who are being taken seriously by the voters."


Czarnik said the league will not be changing its policy now, despite Whitney's complaints.


The Oct. 28 appearance is an edition of “Chicago Tonight,” a regular public affairs program on WTTW, said executive producer Mary Field.


Brady and Quinn will appear together, but will not necessarily be asked the same questions.


“It is not a debate. There are no timed answers. It will be a robust conversation,” Field said.


Field said the station used used “evidence of a viable campaign and polling” in reaching its decision about which candidates are of interest to viewers.


Whitney got over 10 percent of the vote in the 2006 election for governor, making the Greens an established party under Illinois law. He got more votes in that election than Brady secured in this year's primary.


"Does it make sense that Brady has a chance to debate the incumbent and I don't?," Whitney said.


Whitney said his campaign will mobilize people to put pressure on the debate sponsors to let him participate in the debates. If he is still barred, Whitney said protests will be staged outside the debate sites.


Whitney needs the exposure from debates to make up for the fact his campaign is vastly underfunded compared to Quinn and Brady.


Like Brady, Whitney wants the state to conduct a forensic audit to determine where money is being wasted and misappropriated. He said the audit can be conducted in stages, looking at large agencies like the departments of Transportation, Corrections and Human Services first.


Whitney also is a proponent of a large income tax increase, coupled with property tax relief, and he wants to impose a tax on options trades conducted in Illinois, which he said could generate $4.5 billion for the state.


Whitney said such a tax would be "miniscule" given the volume of options trading.


 


Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527.