By MINDA RAE AMIRAN
The League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County regrets to have to inform the public that the candidates for Congress from our district will not be joining candidates for other offices at our Meet the Candidates events in Jamestown and Fredonia in October.
The reason is that Congressman Tom Reed's campaign has not seen fit to honor dates that were placed on his calendar back in March of this year.
At that time, the chair of Voter Service telephoned his office and spoke with his scheduler, who confirmed that she was placing the dates on Mr. Reed's calendar. Subsequently, the chair sent three different letters conveying various debate details to Mr. Reed's office.
Last week, upon telephoning the office again, she was told to her astonishment that placing the debates on Mr. Reed's schedule didn't mean that the campaign was committed to those dates, but that the various letters had indeed been received, and had been forwarded to the campaign manager. Clearly, that person saw no reason to communicate with the League to confirm or decline the candidate's participation, and we have only now learned, as a result of many calls, that Mr. Reed's interest in the Chautauqua County vote doesn't extend to meeting Nate Shinagawa, his opponent, at LWV Meet the Candidate events here.
We understand that The Post-Journal has invited both candidates to a debate late in October, and that Mr. Reed's campaign has accepted that invitation. Candidate exchanges of views have appeared in the past in The Post-Journal and the OBSERVER, and the publication of such exchanges is a great service to the community.
However, articles in the newspapers do not provide for questions from the audience, much less for spontaneous interaction with audience members, as our debates do. And even if the Post-Journal is planning some kind of audience participation, voters from the north County are not likely to be involved.
The rules of the League of Women Voters strictly prohibit "empty chair" debates for national offices. That is, we cannot have one candidate speak if his or her opponent will not be present. Accordingly, we have had to "disinvite" Mr. Shinagawa, the Democratic candidate, who received the telephone calls and letters from us at the same time as Mr. Reed, and who had planned to give voters in both parts of our county the chance to compare his views with those of his opponent.
The League will still be conducting its Meet the Candidate forums in Jamestown and Fredonia for Assembly candidates Andy Goodell and Rudy Mueller and for County Judge candidates Bill Coughlin and John Ward. The Jamestown debates are co-sponsored by the Jamestown American Association of University Women. Details will be published as time for the debates draws closer.
Minda Rae Amiran, a Fredonia resident, is a Chautauqua County League of Women Voters member.