Supporters of James Lewis’ bid for state Rep in the 42 District of Michigan staged a peaceful, yet powerful, protest yesterday in front of the local candidates’ debate at Cleary University in Howell. The group was protesting the fact that Lewis, who was initially invited to participate in the “all-candidates” debate, was suddenly “uninvited” a week later.

More than two dozen Lewis supporters lined the Grand River entrance to the debate site; many had their mouths taped shut to visually demonstrate the intentional silencing of the Lewis platform.

Libertarians recently protested at Cleary College over their candidates being excluded from local forums and debates.

According to Steve Mace, Manager of the Campaign to Elect James Lewis, the protest was planned to be orderly and non-disruptive. “We respect the rights of all candidates to have their voices heard, unlike the debate sponsors,” explained Mace, “and we were insistent that any protest be outside the debate hall, and not disrupt the proceedings.” The candidate himself was pleased, but not terribly surprised, by the strong showing of support.“Third party candidates around the country are rallying huge support,” said Lewis, who attended the protest and spoke to several interested voters. “The people of Michigan, and this entire country, are looking for a new voice, a new way to fix this broken, malfunctioning two-party system. They know there is a better way, and we are seeing fast-growing support for viable alternatives.“The time for change has come, defenders of the entrenched two-party system are going to have to learn to adjust to the will of the people,” Lewis continued. “Pay to play, back door deals, lobbyists and PAC money – all of this corrupts the political process to the point that politicians are in it to better themselves and their own party, not the people. This has to stop, and the people are seeing it.”

Event organizers who rescinded Lewis’ invitation to participate in the debate cited a decision to only include “main party” candidates.

The event was sponsored in part by the Livingston Press & Argus, whose Executive Editor Rich Perlberg publicly stated that third party candidates are “interesting,” but serve only as a “distraction” in these debates. His comments drew sharp public criticism from local business owners who traditionally vote for either Republican or Democrat. Many of these critics joined the debate demonstration, along with Libertarian party members, and Lewis supporters.

“For being only a distraction, we had a fantastic showing,” said Mace. “We did a quick head count and it appears that the number of Lewis supporters outside the event equaled the number of supporters for either Rogers or Willis inside.” (Lewis is running against incumbent Bill Rogers (R) and challenger Shanda Willis (D) in November.)

“The turnout tells us that the two-party system is about to get a huge wake-up call,” Mace continued. “And judging by the number of motorists who honked to show their support, our message is getting out there and it resonates with the people of this district.”

Mace estimates at least 100 passing motorists signaled their support of the Lewis campaign by honking or waving. He also notes only one dissenting gesture, made by a person with a Romney bumper sticker on his car. “Apparently he disagrees, and he let us know in a pretty rude way,” laughed Mace. “That’s okay; this is America, and he has a right to his opinion, however vulgar a way he may choose to express it.” That person parked at Cleary, placed candidate signs and entered the debate hall.

The Lewis campaign continues to gather momentum, new supporters and donations, and Lewis is slated for several public appearances throughout the district in the coming weeks.

For more information, see James Lewis for US Representative