Judge says Nevada debate must include Kucinich

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From the Associated Press

A Nevada judge said Monday that Democratic presidential candidate Dennis J. Kucinich must be included in today’s candidate debate in Nevada.

Senior Clark County District Judge Charles Thompson said if Kucinich was excluded, he would issue an injunction stopping the televised debate.

The judge sided with a lawyer for the Ohio congressman, who said MSNBC invited Kucinich to take part and then told him that he couldn’t.

“We disagree with the judge’s decision and are filing an appeal,” said a statement provided by Jeremy Gaines, a communications vice president for MSNBC.

He said the network would seek an immediate hearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.

“Had it been established at the beginning that they’ll only take the top three for the debates, I wouldn’t have any problem enforcing it,” Thompson told lawyers for NBC Universal.

“I’m somewhat offended that a legitimate candidate was invited to a debate and then uninvited under circumstances that appear to be that they just decided to exclude him,” the judge said.

The cable news network and the Democratic Party have billed the debate as a chance for Nevada’s minority communities to pose questions to the three front-runners: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Tim Russert and Brian Williams are scheduled to moderate.

Kucinich drew less than 2% of the Democratic vote in the New Hampshire primary, after attracting little support and no delegates in the Iowa caucuses.

But Thompson said it was a matter of fairness to include Kucinich, and said voters would benefit. “I don’t think that just deciding that just three is good enough for the state of Nevada is a legitimate basis,” he said.

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