We tried. And when the first try didn’t work, we tried again. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter. It was pretty clear that some candidates would not participate in a debate, no matter what we did. So we will not have the candidate debate we tried so hard to put together.
That’s a big disappointment for us and a big loss for the voters, but we don’t want to have another “empty chair” debate like the one another group had two years ago. (Two of the candidates who didn’t show up for that debate indicated they wouldn’t show up for this debate either.) Our apologies to all the citizens who were looking forward to hearing each candidate’s ideas, visions and experience.
I don’t know the real reasons that five candidates declined to participate. None of the reasons they provided seem legitimate. It just seems like they were looking for any excuse so they wouldn’t have to answer questions from voters.
We do want to say thank you to Tom Witts, Dave Emanuel, Cristy Lenski and Roger Marmol who said they would show up anywhere and anytime for a debate.
I’m sure you’ll hear all kinds of claims about our debate being unfair and biased. The facts are, we worked very, very hard to be as fair as possible. The Snellville Times stated very clearly that we were only hosting the debate. No member of the staff and no one who submitted articles would be involved in the debate. Here’s what we sent to each candidate;
Format for the debate will be;
1- It will take place in front of a live audience
2- All questions will be submitted by members of the audience
3- Each candidate may designate a representative to review questions before they are given to the moderator
4- Any question deemed inappropriate by a representative will not be given to the moderator.
5- Should it become obvious that a representative is arbitrarily rejecting questions, or trying to disrupt the process, the moderator will ask for a replacement representative. If none is specified or available, the candidate may proceed without a representative or withdraw from the debate. All rejected questions will then be resubmitted for review by the remaining representatives.
6- The moderator will ask a question and give each candidate 3 minutes to answer. The candidate asked to respond first will change with each question in such a manner that the first candidate asked to respond will change with each question.
We had also contacted a well-known television reporter to serve as the moderator. Still, all we got were accusations, insults and double talk.
It’s important for voters to be able to hear what candidates have to say, so for a while, we thought we would go ahead and schedule a debate. We even had the auditorium at South Gwinnett High School reserved. But then someone from the Norcross area made a complaint and put the school in an awkward position. The last thing we wanted was to cause any problems for South Gwinnett High School and at this late date, finding another venue was almost impossible. Besides, it didn’t make sense to spend more time and effort for an empty chair debate
Is it coincidence that the complaint came from the Norcross area? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll have more information about what appears to be an intentional effort by outsiders working with and/or for some candidates to derail the debate, and possibly the election. Stay tuned.