Independent candidates say they are still waiting for chance to debate

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 LOWER TOWNSHIP – The third and final presidential debate is done. Neighboring Cape May sponsored a well-attended candidates’ forum last week. But Lower Township can’t even get everyone in the same room.

“Look, when you are a candidate, you know that this is coming,” said Mayor Michael Beck, running for re-election, regarding the possibility of public debates. “There’s not a lot of to think about: it’s either yes or no.”

“We announced in April and offered to debate,” said Beck, speaking for the Independents for Lower ticket, comprising himself, Norris Clark for deputy mayor, and Jim Neville for the Ward 2 council seat. “When the two newspapers came to us about a debate at the Millman Center, we agreed right away. That situation was everything you could ask for: third parties sponsoring the event, the League of Women Voters running the show, in a public forum in the community we want to serve. There was just no hesitation.”

That proposed event, to be sponsored by the Cape May Star & Wave and the Cape May County Herald newspapers, was canceled by its organizers after Republican candidates failed to respond.

The Republican candidates are Erik Simonsen, former Ward 2 councilman, for mayor; incumbent candidate Kevin Lare for deputy mayor; and sitting councilman Walt Craig for the Ward 2 spot.

Lower Township Regular Republican Organization leader Jeff Lindsay said last week that Republican candidates did not respond to the debate request because it wasn’t formalized.

“There was some discussion about a debate, but it never came together,” said Lindsay. “We are now in discussions…about a debate on the radio.”

Beck said, as of Wednesday afternoon, he had not been contacted by Coastal Broadcasting regarding any programming.

“Four years ago, the candidates debated in public at the Millman Center and that was supplemented by a question and answer segment on the radio,” said Beck, who forwarded emails pertaining to the 2008 event.

The emails, from Denis Brown to then mayoral candidates Harvey Roach and Mike Beck, show that Coastal Broadcasting began setting up the mid-October radio appearance in September. The email set out the proposed format of the show; the procedure for questions being drafted; and answer and response time for each man.

“There was planning and lead time, the whole thing was done by a third party – not as an adjunct of a campaign,” said Beck. “None of us have been contacted by Coastal Broadcasting regarding any programming.”

Glenn Douglass, the Independents for Lower campaign chairman, did speak informally with Jeff Lindsay, according to Beck.

“But this isn’t supposed to be about Jeff Lindsay, or a particular campaign. We’ve heard nothing from Coastal Broadcasting about any plans,” he said.

Lindsay did not return a phone message by press time. Last week, Lindsay, in response to inquiries, said that he had “confirmed that we can debate on the radio on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.”

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