Let Merkt debate

Tomorrow the first of two ELEC sponsored GOP gubernatorial primary debates will be held in Trenton at NJN. Because both Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan, the GOP front runners, have raised at least $340,000 and have accepted state matching funds they are required to debate twice.

Assemblyman Rick Merkt, the other GOP candidate in the race, has not met the matching funds threshold and is being excluded from the "official" debates. This is wrong. ELEC should invite Mr. Merkt to debate Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan.

The regulations, as far as I can tell, only require candidates who accept matching funds to debate; they do not require ELEC not to invite other serious candidates who have not met the matching funds threshold.

If ELEC does not invite Assemblyman Merkt, who is one of the most knowledgeable legislators in Trenton about the state budget, it will perpetuate the myth that "democracy" is about ideas and not about money. ELEC has a moral responsibility to invite Mr. Merkt who was the first candidate to file for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Not only that, Mr. Merkt is the only GOP candidate who has state government experience.

Both Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan should demand that ELEC include Mr. Merkt in the debates. The two front runners should welcome a fellow Republican into the debates.

A vibrant democracy should be about ideas not about raising an arbitrary amount of money. The United States government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of our troops have been killed and tens of thousands of our troops have been maimed, some for life, so the Iraqi people can have open elections.

The least ELEC can do is permit Assemblyman Merkt to debate tomorrow and again on May 17th at its sponsored debates so New Jersey GOP voters can have as an open democratic process as the Iraqi people. Let Merkt debate