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Senate Candidate Will Seek to Halt Debate

Libertarian James Gray is challenging the League of Women Voters over rules that bar him from taking part in the event.

August 03, 2004|Eric Slater | Times Staff Writer

James P. Gray, the Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Barbara Boxer, plans to seek a temporary injunction today that would halt a debate in which organizers had deemed him ineligible to participate.

The complaint against the California League of Women Voters alleges that the group is violating federal election laws by not allowing Gray to join Boxer and Republican candidate Bill Jones at a debate scheduled for Aug. 10 at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

"It's a deliberate attempt to keep the race out of third-party hands," Gray campaign spokeswoman Julia El-Haj said.

The legal maneuver is Gray's latest attempt to participate in the debate, which is to be televised by KNBC-TV.

As a tax-exempt entity, the league cannot endorse candidates but is allowed under the law to set limits that candidates must meet to qualify for the debate. In the Senate race, the league has said that candidates must demonstrate support from a minimum of 10% of voters in an independent poll.

Gray, an Orange County Superior Court judge, has been viewed as such a longshot that most polls have not included him. His campaign recently sponsored its own poll of 500 likely voters, and found 8% were probable Gray supporters.

Not only did he still not qualify under the league's guidelines, but the league claims that the poll was neither independent nor legitimate, saying that pollsters employed "push poll" tactics that are designed to influence respondents.

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