ARLINGTON, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s gubernatorial debate on Tuesday between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin was interrupted early on by a third-party candidate.
Princess Blanding, running for governor as a member of the Liberation Party, shouted from the audience that she wasn’t allowed to participate, even though her name is on the November ballot. She says she wants a fair shot and has earned it.
After a heated exchange, Blanding told 8News on Wednesday that if she wasn’t allowed on the stage to debate, she was going to take the stage herself. The gubernatorial hopeful called it “good trouble,” quoting the late Congressman John Lewis.
Blanding’s interruption is getting backlash and praise.
Some are saying it was rude and uncalled for, while others are saying she is standing up for the “working class” and fighting the electoral system.
“I worked very hard to be on the ballot,” Blanding shouted on Tuesday night during the televised debate. “I should be on the stage.” The tense moments were captured by ABC affiliate WJLA while Youngkin and McAuliffe went head to head.
The debate was televised, and at one point the moderator tossed to a commercial break and asked for security. Blanding was visibly and vocally upset that she was denied the opportunity to debate.
“There’s censorship of my candidacy. It is very racist. It is very sexist and it is very oppressive,” Blanding told 8News. “What they’re saying is Princess, you paid your dues to get on the bus, and you can get on the bus like everyone else, but get to the back of the bus.”
Blanding, under the Liberation Party, has made history as the first Black woman to be on Virginia’s ballot for Governor. The social justice advocate made headlines after her brother, Marcus David-Peters was shot and killed by a Richmond Police officer in 2018 while experiencing a mental health episode. The incident was caught on body camera video and shows David-Peters lunging at an officer naked, but also disoriented running into oncoming traffic.
Since then Blanding has been pushing for police reform, legislation for what she calls “all humanity”, mental health support and equality for black and brown people. She said she has worked twice as hard just to be recognized in the political arena, only to be silenced.
“I said OK, no worries. You take your lemons and you make lemonade out of it and that’s what I did,” Blanding explained, when she found out the news she couldn’t debate.
8News obtained an email Blanding was sent over a week ago by the organizers of Tuesday’s debate. The Northern Virginia Chamber stated in writing that Blanding was not invited to participate in the debate; however, she could attend and talk to media afterwards.
Blanding’s disruption is now shining a light on the political process and how fair is it for candidates who don’t have much traction, monetary donations, or party affiliation.
8News political analyst Rich Meagher is weighing in. He said organizers of the debate are allowed to select who they invite to debate, which historically makes things harder for third-party candidates.
“I can understand why Princess Blanding feels like there’s been an injustice here,” Meagher said. “You don’t get quite the same attention if you’re not a Republican or Democrat. It’s by design. It’s a system that is designed for the parties by the parties to help protect ballot access.”
Third-party candidates often have more challenges to face in the world of politics, and Meagher said so do women and minorities. However, Meagher does not think there was a conscious effort to exclude Blanding. He said it’s more of the system being oriented towards the two major parties, which leaves questions swirling in regard to the democratic process.
“People can vote for her, so they really need to know what she stands for and what issues she believes in,” said Meagher. “A better functioning democracy would create more opportunities for someone like Princess Blanding, even if it’s a long shot.”
Recent polls show a tight race between McAuliffe and Youngkin, with the former governor taking a slight lead. The last time Blanding was included in a poll, she garnered 2% of the vote. Blanding said she won’t stop fighting for basic human rights and she hopes Virginians will take the time to hear her platform, even if she isn’t center stage.
Overall, Meagher says what Blanding did at the debate was “smart politics.”
“Some might call it rude,” said Meagher. “But from strictly a political view, it was smart politics. Here’s someone that’s being shut out of the system and sometimes you have to push back. And for her to stand up and disrupt a televised debate was a bold move, but one that’s brought her a lot of attention.”
Blanding said neither candidate has reached out to her since Tuesday’s debate.