Griebel, independent candidate for governor, says he deserves to be part of debates

New London — Oz Griebel, who is making an independent run for governor, said Tuesday that he will make an appearance at the Sept. 12 debate sponsored by The Day and WTNH News 8 — whether he's invited to participate or not.

"We're going to be there on the 12th. ... We're going to be outside. ... we'll hold a press briefing after the debate because we want to make sure our voice is heard, and we'll do everything we can, respectfully and by the rules and all that, but we will be heard, and I hope it's heard on the stage," Griebel said.

Griebel, 69, a former Republican, and his running mate, Monte Frank, 50, a former Democrat, asked to meet with The Day's Editorial Board on Tuesday to make the case that he should be invited to participate in the gubernatorial debate at the Garde Arts Center. Democratic candidate Ned Lamont and Republican candidate Bob Stefanowski were invited and have said they will participate.

"We're arguing our own self-interest, but we think there's a responsibility by the hosts of debates to make sure the viewers, the attendees are getting a comprehensive look," Griebel said.

The pair got enough signatures to qualify for the general election ballot as petitioning candidates. But Griebel has not yet garnered 10 percent support "in an established, professionally conducted nonpartisan poll without taking the survey's margin of error into account," one of the debate rules. Per the rules, he has until Friday to qualify.

Nexstar Broadcasting, which owns WTNH, has a rule across all of its television stations that, in order to participate in debates, candidates must receive at least 10 percent support in a qualifying poll, so all stations are following the same guidelines. The debate rules were sent out to the campaigns of Griebel, Lamont and Stefanowski. Griebel's campaign did not object to the rules or offer input, according to The Day's Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere.

Griebel received 4 percent support in a recent Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 1,029 Connecticut voters from Aug. 16 to 21. Of those surveyed, 83 percent said they hadn't heard enough about Griebel to form an opinion

"For the media to say, 'No, you're not going to be in the debate,' and to ignore the fact that 83 percent of the voters don't know enough about us yet to make a decision, will lead in a result that is not fair to all people who feel disenfranchised by the parties," Frank said.

He and Griebel argued that the poll was conducted after the Aug. 14 primary, which favored those candidates on the ballot, and they planned to spend the time from now until the general election educating the electorate about who they are and their ideas.

As of now, Griebel also does not qualify for the Sept. 17 debate sponsored by the CT Realtors Association and WTNH, but he will face off against Lamont in a debate Wednesday hosted by the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges. Stefanowski declined to participate.

As of Aug. 10, there were 2,108,344 active registered voters in Connecticut, according to the secretary of the state. Of them, 858,268 are registered as unaffiliated. In Connecticut, unaffiliated voters cannot cast ballots in primary elections.

Griebel said he and Frank will spend a lot of time leading up to the general election educating voters on their ballot location. Lamont is endorsed by the Democratic and Working Families parties, and Stefanowski was endorsed by the Republican and Independent parties, meaning Griebel and Frank likely will be fifth or sixth on the ballot, he said.

Tickets to the Sept. 12 debate are available through the Garde’s box office, which can be reached by calling (860) 444-7373.

j.bergman@theday.com

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