Libertarian National Committee, Inc.; The Libertarian Party of Kentucky; David Patterson, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Terry Holiday, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Argued: July 25, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Kentucky at Frankfort. No. 3:14-cv-00063-Gregory
F. Van Tatenhove, District Judge.
Christopher D. Wiest, CHRIS WIEST, ATTORNEY AT LAW, LLC,
Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellants. Christopher W. Brooker,
WYATT, TARRANT & COMBS, LLP, Louisville, Kentucky, for
B. Bruns, Cincinnati, Ohio, Robert A. Winter, Jr., Fort
Mitchell, Kentucky, for Appellants. Christopher W. Brooker,
Deborah H. Patterson, Sean G. Williamson, WYATT, TARRANT
& COMBS, LLP, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellees.
Before: BATCHELDER, KETHLEDGE, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.
KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judge.
October 2014, Kentucky Educational Television (KET) hosted a
debate between the candidates for one of Kentucky's seats
in the U.S. Senate. KET thought it would best serve viewers
by giving airtime only to candidates capable of winning the
seat. It therefore limited the debate to candidates who met
certain minimal criteria-including, among others, that at
least 1 in 10 Kentuckians actually planned to vote for them.
Those criteria excluded David Patterson, the candidate for
the Libertarian Party of Kentucky. Patterson and the Party
thereafter challenged the criteria as unconstitutional. The
district court rejected their claims. So do we.
run by the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television, a
state agency. Since 1975, KET has televised debates between
the candidates in various state and federal elections.
Specifically, it invites candidates to discuss their views in
an interview format on the program Kentucky Tonight.
2014, KET invited any candidate who was legally qualified to
appear on the ballot. That was a low bar-Republican and
Democratic candidates need only two signatures to qualify for
the primary ballot-so KET has over the years invited some
decidedly nonviable candidates to its debates. In 2012, for
example, KET invited a congressional candidate whose sole
campaign activity (other than collecting the necessary
signatures) was to appear on Kentucky Tonight. And
though the election for another House seat that year came
down to a close race between two candidates, KET also invited
a third candidate, who ultimately won only 2.8% of the vote.
2014, Senator Mitch McConnell was up for reelection. KET
decided early that year to limit its debates for that seat to
candidates who had a viable chance of winning. The goal, as
KET officials said in emails and later in depositions, was to
improve the debates for viewers. KET first developed criteria
for the debates between candidates during the Republican and
Democratic primaries. To meet those ...