Republican candidate nixed from Cal Poly debate
January 30, 2016
OPINION by MATT KOKKONEN
Cal Poly has denied a declared Republican Congressional Candidate participation at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Congressional debate on Feb. 4. Political science professor Michael Latner is refusing to allow me, Republican Matt Kokkonen, to participate in the Congressional candidate debate forum at Cal Poly.
I am long time political activist, the Republican nominee for Congress against Lois Capps in the 2008 general election and a current and seven time elected member of the San Luis Obispo Republican Central Committee.
Dr. Latner said I was not qualified to participate in the debate because I had not requested papers from the San Luis Obispo County Clerk Recorder to officially file for candidacy. I declared my candidacy already in Sept. 2015 and in fact presented Cal Poly president Jeffery Armstrong campaign materials in person at a public meeting of San Luis Obispo Business and Property Owners’ Association.
I pointed out to Dr. Latner that Congressional candidates file directly with the Federal Elections Commission, not with the local county, and that he filed with the FEC. One reason for this is that Congressional districts often cover several counties. The county does not provide papers to be filed for federal office.
It is most surprising to realize that Cal Poly’s political science professor is so ignorant of the elemental mechanics of filing for Congress. It is also disappointing to hear him continue to claim he received this information from the county office.
FEC requires filing to be done electronically, unless the candidate anticipates spending or raising under $50,000 in a calendar year. Even then, the paper filing is done directly with the FEC.
I also referred to Cal Poly’s website advertising the event which specifically states “Individuals who have recently requested paperwork to file for candidacy have also been invited to participate.” This is pure nonsense, but if it were true, I would qualify.
After being asked with which political party he is registered, Latner finally and dismissively responded, “the Pirate Party.”
In my opinion, Cal Poly’s refusal to admit my participation in the Congressional debate clearly amounts to discrimination against a Republican Congressional candidate.
It is shocking and regrettable that as public university, Cal Poly is permitting such bigotry. I expected the university to promote the free exchange of ideas, exposure of voters to all candidates with their various political positions and simply upholding the freedom of expression at a public institution of higher learning, not arbitrary discrimination against a Republican.
The debate is scheduled for Feb. 4 and I am still awaiting a reply.
Matt Kokkonen is a legal immigrant and a candidate for the U.S. Congress
California’s 24th District.