In spite of rules that would seem to exclude him, it looks like Independence Party candidate David Dillon has won a seat at an AARP debate tentatively scheduled for Sept. 16.
Dillon printed out the entire federal tax code -- all 6,000 pages of it -- and brought it to the last debate, sponsored by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce.
Dillon, who is running for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., put out a press release Sunday complaining that AARP had excluded him from the forum.
Dillon has far less money to buy advertising than his better-known opponents. So debates like AARP's are one of his few opportunities to get his name out on television.
His campaign said it was looking into taking legal action against AARP and Twin Cities Public Television, the media sponsor for the debate.
AARP called that press release premature.
"We're not 100 percent sure we're going to have a debate, yet," AARP Minnesota State Director Michele Kimball said.
While the debate is advertised on the AARP Web site, Kimball said she has not received confirmation from the campaigns for Republican Erik Paulsen or DFLer Ashwin Madia.
She said Dillon will get an invitation to any debate AARP holds, provided he wins the IP nomination in tomorrow's primary.
Dillon has the party endorsement, but Eden Prairie resident Steev (yes, it's really spelled like that) Ramsdell has also filed as an IP candidate in the race. Ramsdell acknowledges on his Web site that his chances are slim and he does not appear to be waging a particularly active campaign.
AARP's official rules say that for candidates to be included in debates they must:
1. be registered with the Secretary of State as an official candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the State of Minnesota whose name will appear on the official ballot on November 4, 2008;
2. have received their political party's nomination;
3. have a campaign office open by September 1, where he or she and/or campaign staff may be contacted during regular business hours;
4. be officially registered with the Federal Election Commission as an election candidate; and
5. if an independent candidate, the individual must register at least 5 percent in voter support in a public statistically significant poll conducted by news media or other independent organizations (not done for a political party or candidate); or
6. if a political party candidate, the party must have received at least 5 percent of the last general election vote, if the party ran a candidate. If the political party ran no candidate in the previous election, Rule 5 above applies.
Technically, Dillon doesn't meet the criteria. He doesn't qualify under rule six, because the Independence Party didn't run a candidate in the 3rd Congressional District two years ago.
"No one was going to run against Ramstad. I mean, come on," Dillon campaign manager Bruce Anderson said. "Even the DFL candidate that year was just a sacrificial lamb, in my opinion."
The only "public statistically significant poll" so far has been a Survey USA poll that showed Paulsen leading Madia 44-41, within the margin of error.
Dillon wasn't included in the poll, but "other" got 10 percent and six percent of the respondents were undecided. Still, that would seem to exclude him under rule five, above.
But Kimball said the rules are flexible, and she was happy to make an exception for Dillon once he wins his primary.
"I'm tickled he wants to be included in our debate," she said.
That is one big stack of paper.
*disclosure Dillon for Congress is a Trail Blazer client.