IP gubernatorial candidate plans lawsuit after being excluded from Sunday's debate


When Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson took the stage at Hamline University Sunday morning, the Independence Party gubernatorial candidate wasn't there.

Hannah Nicollet announced Saturday she plans to file a lawsuit in federal court against the university for excluding her from the morning debate, which was hosted by FOX 9.

Nicollet says IP candidate Tom Horner, who also had major party status, was included in Hamline's debate four years ago. She also claims excluding her from the debate violates Hamline's nonprofit status.

She held a news conference about the lawsuit at 8 a.m. Sunday. She was be joined by Libertarian candidate Chris Holbrook and Legalize Cannabis candidate Chris Wright, who are also on the ballot for governor.

The Independence Party of Minnesota says the "Use of the university's facilities and website for an exclusionary event by only two parties' candidates could be considered in-kind support for those candidates by the state Campaign Finance Board."

In response to the university's involvement in the debate, it said on its website:

"To clarify Hamline's involvement in the debate content decision-making, as the university has received several questions about that: The editorial decisions, such as which candidates would appear at this event are entirely those of FOX9. Hamline was approached as a venue to provide a site for this event, and FOX9 is renting that space from the university. Hamline does not support or oppose candidates for public office. The opinions expressed at this event are not those of the university."

KSTP reached out to FOX 9, but hasn't received a response.

This isn't the first time Nicollet has been left out of a debate. Including Sunday's, she will have been involved in two of the four gubernatorial debates to date, the Pioneer Press reports. Last week's debate in Duluth was the first time in more than 10 years the Independence Party was excluded from a debate, the newspaper adds.

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