The father of independent Massachusetts Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai held a sit-in Wednesday at the district office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren to protest his son’s exclusion from candidate debates.
Vellayappa Ayyadurai, 85, said in a video posted on Twitter that he would remain in her office at the JFK Federal Building in Boston “until Sen. Elizabeth Warren allows my son to speak in the senatorial debate.”
Shiva Ayyadurai, who’s running on the campaign slogan “only a real Indian can defeat the fake Indian,” filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the decision to exclude him from debates scheduled for next month at the University of Massachusetts.
Mr. Ayyadurai, whose campaign has raised about $5 million since launching in February 2017, according to federal election records, argued that the public university should not be able to bar him from the debate stage.
“When a government institution is involved, in this case the University of Massachusetts, they cannot be adjudicating free speech,” he said.
He said the debate criteria required him to meet a 15 percent threshold based on recent statewide polls, but that the surveys that once included him have since omitted him from their questions on candidate name recognition.
In a June 2017 WBUR poll conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, 9 percent of voters said they had heard of him, while 4 percent gave him a favorable rating and 1 percent unfavorable, for a total of 14 percent. The same poll released June 1 later no longer listed him in the section on visibility and favorability.
At the same time, that survey did include him in hypothetical match-ups against Ms. Warren and Republican candidates, where he earned 7 or 8 percent, depending on the GOP challenger. Ms. Warren took more than 50 percent in all the match-ups.
The university did not return immediately a request for comment.
Ms. Warren, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, is seeking reelection in November against Mr. Ayyadurai and Republican state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who won the Sept. 4 GOP primary.
Mr. Ayyadurai said he was surprised by his father’s decision to protest, tweeting “Can’t believe he did this.”
Just got this first short video. Heading over to the JFK Federal Building where my dad said he will not leave until @SenWarren rectifies the INJUSTICE of throwing me off the debate stage. pic.twitter.com/mN4EPw0w05
— Dr.SHIVA Ayyadurai, MIT PhD. Inventor of Email (@va_shiva) September 12, 2018
— Dr.SHIVA Ayyadurai, MIT PhD. Inventor of Email (@va_shiva) September 13, 2018
Video on his Twitter feed showed his elderly father sitting on the couch in a suit and tie. The candidate’s nephew was also present.
A call to Ms. Warren’s Boston office Wednesday evening went directly into voice mail.
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