FARMINGTON, Conn. — Even though third-party candidates have been denied access to the 2008 presidential debates, all the congressional candidates in Connecticut’s 5th District met here last night for their only debate before next Tuesday’s elections.
While many consider Connecticut a securely Democratic state, the debate at Farmington High School — which included the this district’s third-party candidates — was abuzz with accusations against the incumbent, Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy.
One such detractor is the Green Party’s Harold Burbank, an attorney and human rights advocate who decided to run on anti-war platform. An integral part of that platform originally was his desire to impeach George W. Bush ’68 and Dick Cheney.
“I decided to run because our congressman refused to support our impeachment against one of the greatest war criminals ever who occupies the presidency of the United States,” he said in an interview.
Burbank contends that Murphy “voted for every single Bush war funding bill except for one.” He also places the deaths of Connecticut soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan on Murphy’s hands.
“Well, we’ve lost 43 soldiers right here,” he said of the 5th District, “43 of Mr. Murphy’s potential constituents that he has caused to be murdered by his support of this war.”
Despite his inflammatory rhetoric, Burbank speaks like a lawyer. Fittingly, he said he was inspired to run by Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois Law School, a leading proponent of impeaching Bush and Cheney.
Asked whether he supported Burbank’s candidacy, Boyle replied: “Certainly, unequivocally. … I think he has outstanding positions on just about every issue out there.”
Back at the debate, the atmosphere was calm. Senior citizens sat with high school students, listening attentively, clapping where appropriate. They knew the format well from television — each candidate had two minutes to debate topics ranging from the environment to immigration.
But few of the candidates were smiling. Murphy sat hunched on his chair. Independent Party candidate Tom Winn and Republican State Sen. David Cappiello of Danbury were stoic at their podiums. Burbank stood for most of the debate, bursting into fluid bouts of highly technical speech when questioned.
Indeed, the real battle was raged between Murphy and his third party opponents who leveled accusations of his support for the Iraq War against him.
Laurie Dobson, an Independent Party member who sought to challenge Sen. Susan Collins of Maine this fall, was particularly impressed by Burbank. Just as Burbank said he had been inspired by Boyle, Dobson said she had been motiviated to run for Senate by Burbank’s campaign.
“He’s very clear, very intelligent,” she said. “I trust that he would be a very good leader.”
Farmington High School students were pleased to see all the candidates debate.
Brendan Gibbs, a senior, praised the fact that all candidates were represented. “It’s more fair,” he said.
Julia Cooperman, another Farmington senior, was particularly enthused by the debate.
“To see them up there, you see how they present themselves to each other, to the audience, to the moderator,” she said. “You get a different opinion than when you just hear them on the radio.”
This debate was the sole event in the state to invite third-party candidates.