UPDATE: September 25, 2012
The League of Women Voters in Wakulla has come under fire. At a Superintendent's forum held in August, citizens and candidates expressed concern over the way the questions were being asked. Some even saying they feel the forum was unfair and favored one candidate over another.
On Monday night, the Wakulla County Republican Executive Committee sent a press release saying all republican candidates are withdrawing from any forum scheduled by the League of Women Voters and Concerned Citizens of Wakulla. Chairman Jonathan Kilpatrick released the following statement:
"Given the controversy, the republican candidates decided as a group that there are better avenues to get their message to the public."
There were no republican candidates at the superintendent's forum. Still, Kilpatrick feels the public backlash from the forum is something republicans want to avoid. The Democratic Executive Committee was also hesitant to have its candidates participate.
"Candidates are not obligated to show up just because a forum is announced," said Rachel Pienta, Chairwoman of the Wakulla County Democratic Executive Committee
Democrats contacted the LWV earlier today and were told a state representative from the League will be present at future forums to ensure this doesn't happen again. The Democratic Executive Committee said they will once again encourage candidates to be at the forums.
Hugh Taylor, one of the organizers of the Concerned Citizens of Wakulla forum released the following statement:
"For any candidate that does not want to participate, that does not speak very well of the candidate. We stand behind our forums and any candidate unwilling to be there is not being very democratic."
A sheriff's forum scheduled for Tuesday night was moving ahead as planned, despite Republican Sheriff's Candidate Maurice Langston declining to attend. The forum is being run by The Concerned Citizens of Wakulla and the Wakulla Christian Coalition.
Langston released the following statement:
"It is with regret that I will not be attending the CCOW or the LVW Forum scheduled for the Wakulla County Sheriff's Race due to the ongoing controversy surrounding these events and at the recommendation of the leaders of both the Republican and Democrat committees in Wakulla County."
Langston's opponent, Charlie Creel, who is running as an independent, said he will be there to speak to the citizens and answer questions.
"Forums are a way for a candidate to get their platform out there for people to hear. And being sheriff, you have to make tough decisions. You have to answer some tough questions. So, I think it's important to be at these forums," said Creel.
Langston, as well as other republicans, have said they will attend forums and debates sponsored by other organizations.
Wakulla County, FL - September 24, 2012
The Republican Executive Committee in Wakulla County says its candidates will no longer participate in certain forums.
The announcement comes after the Democratic and Republican Committees said a forum held by the League of Women Voters was conducted unfairly.
Now, they claim candidates will not be present at those forums as well as forums sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Wakulla.
A sheriff's candidate forum is scheduled for tomorrow night.
Wakulla County, FL - September 24, 2012
Release from Wakulla County Republican Executive Committee:
As recommended by the leaders of both the Republican and Democrat Executive Committees in Wakulla County, please accept this email as notification of withdrawal of all Republican Candidates from the forums scheduled by the League of Women Voters and Concerned Citizens of Wakulla due to the ongoing controversy surrounding these events. We are aware of the different opinions and public outcry that resulted from the most recent forum held by the
League of Women Voters. Republican Candidates were not involved in the controversy, and we wish to steer clear of any issues that may persist. We do not want our message and vision for our county to be overshadowed by drama that may carry over into the next forum.
We believe it is very important during this election cycle to show Wakulla County voters that we are committed to campaign honorably. We have all witnessed the seeds of voter disenchantment sown by those who utilize personal attacks instead of focusing on relevant issues.
We are committed to participate with other civic organizations to give the citizens of Wakulla County as many opportunities as possible to see our candidates in debates, forums, and other public venues. We would like to thank the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce for scheduling a bipartisan forum and our candidates look forward to participating in this event. Additionally, we look forward to the bipartisan forum to be held jointly by the Democrat and Republican Executive Committees. This will be the first time in Wakulla County history that both parties have unified to ensure integrity remains in the campaign process.