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Third-party Governor’s candidate denied from joining Pueblo Chamber of Commerce debate

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Governor's debate, held later this month at the Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, is raising questions about the eligibility and access of third-party candidates to attend. The debate, held on September 28, will feature the current Republican and Democrat nominees Heidi Ganahl and Jared Polis.

However, multiple third-party candidates, like Libertarian candidate Kevin Ruskusky and Constitutionalist candidate Danielle Neuschwanger, were not invited to attend.

According to Pueblo Chamber of Commerce President Duane Nava, all third-party candidates in the governor's race did not meet the required threshold, which was receiving 15% of the vote in polling numbers.

Duane Nava

"Every gubernatorial debate across our state is denying access for any third-party candidates," Neuschwanger said. "They have no desire to have all candidates present."

Neuschwanger, who was previously running as a Republican, was not selected as the party's candidate during the GOP assembly on April 9. A few weeks later, she announced her candidacy for American Constitutionalist nominee. Neuschwanger says she has asked Nava multiple times to be invited to debate.

"If we truly care about free and fair elections, every candidate should be invited if they are on the ballot," Neuschwanger said. "It's not for the parties, it is for the people to know the candidates better on their policies and platforms."

Neuschwanger questioned whether the two-party candidates were interested in debating third-party candidates and claimed the possibility of either Polis or Ganahl dropping out if the Pueblo Chamber of Commerce allowed third-party candidates to participate.

13 Investigates asked Nava about this claim. He referred us to each campaign for Polis and Ganahl.

In a statement, Ganahl's campaign said:

"Heidi is excited to present her vision for Colorado's future with Pueblo. This debate was one of the first debates we agreed to in an effort to get outside the Denver/Boulder areas. We did so based upon parameters that were proposed by the Pueblo Chamber several weeks ago."

Lexi Swearingen, Communications Director

In a statement, Polis' campaign said:

"Governor Polis will be participating whether one or all gubernatorial candidates go. He is looking forward to talking about his solutions for keeping Southern Colorado and all of the state moving forward."

Amber Miller, Communications Director

Neuschwanger's campaign sent 13 Investigates a text message from Nava that raised concerns about the reasons behind barring her from participating.

In a text message, Nava tells Neuschwanger's campaign, "in order to ensure that we do not lose this debate entirely we are going to stick with the agreed upon terms previously set."

Those agreed-upon terms are still unclear. Nava told 13 Investigates the only requirement was to be polling with at least 15% of the vote. However, Neuschwanger believes her attendance would prompt some controversy.

"I think if I get invited, there is a chance that Polis would back out. I think it's time for the people to finally have a voice," Neuschwanger said.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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