Aides for Democratic Senate candidate Jim Pederson denied entrance to two men affiliated with Republican incumbent Jon Kyl to a Pederson-sponsored Town Hall meeting on public property Monday.
The denials violated terms of the agreement the Pederson campaign signed to lease a room at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix.
The lease required that any member of the public be granted admission.
Pederson’s aides stationed at the front door of the meeting denied access to Andy Chasin, who is Kyl’s campaign spokesman, and T.J. Shope, who’s president of the College Republicans at Arizona State University.
Pederson’s aides are acquainted with both men.
“I don’t know what their criteria are,” Chasin said. “I said, ‘What’s the basis? I’m a member of the public. These are my City Council members. I’m still a voter.’ ”
Shope said he was turned away twice. The first time he had a videocamera; the second time he did not.
It was a private event, but both Democrats and non-Democrats were invited, Pederson spokesman Mark Bergman said. “We wanted an exchange of ideas on homeland security and didn’t want it crashed by Republican activists.”
The afternoon meeting focused on homeland security. It featured Pederson, some Phoenix City Council members and firefighters. Admission was free.
The library contract, a public record, states: “Any person desiring to attend or join in any meeting may do so. Doors must remain unlocked and meetings must remain open to the public.”
Pederson’s aides shouldn’t have excluded anyone, said Scottsdale attorney Dan Barr, who specializes in First Amendment law. “That was dumb. Legal issues aside, that was dumb,” he said.
Pederson’s public speaking has become an issue in the heated race. Kyl last week began airing a television commercial that uses a short video clip from a speech Pederson gave in Tucson.
Pederson has charged that Kyl is using the two-sentence clip out of context. In the video Pederson says, “Bring the bacon home. They call that pork.”
The statement was part of a broader discussion about what Pederson called the failed efforts of the Arizona congressional delegation to secure financing for highway funding, university research grants and other “critical” services and projects.
Pederson’s people have denied admittance to Chasin and Shope at previous campaign events. They barred Chasin at a press conference on private property at a hotel on Sept. 8, and denied access to Shope from a press conference in a meeting room at ASU’s downtown campus Aug. 7.
State Republican Party officials likewise barred Pederson campaign worker Kevin Griffis from a Kyl press conference on private property at the GOP headquarters on Friday.