Independent Senate candidate sues Louisiana station over debate

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One of 24 candidates for a Louisiana U.S. Senate seat filed a lawsuit Monday over his exclusion from a debate to air on Louisiana Public Broadcasting.

Troy Hebert, running as an independent, wants to block the debate from airing Oct. 18 as scheduled. The Council for A Better Louisiana, a public interest nonprofit and debate co-host, set the criteria for candidates to appear: They must have raised at least $1 million, garnered a minimum of 5 percent of support in a poll, have a campaign committee and filed finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Three Republican and two Democratic candidates meet those requirements and are appearing in the debate, LPB President Beth Courtney told Current. Candidates are competing for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. David Vitter.

Hebert’s suit challenges CABL, LPB and its licensee Louisiana Educational Television Authority over what he terms “unfair minimum criteria.” Courtney said that the station has “done everything right” in the run-up to the debate. The 1998 Supreme Court case Forbes v. Arkansas Educational Network held that organizations have the right to “journalistic discretion” when deciding what candidates to include in debates.

Courtney said the council used “objective criteria” to determine which candidates would appear.

The Advocate reported that Hebert’s case will be heard Oct. 12.