UPDATE: Following offer to cancel candidates' forum, Democratic debate to move forward
UPDATE (2:45 P.M.) Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce Bob Duffy issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:
Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce has cancelled its Mayoral Candidates Employer Forum originally scheduled for September 7. Because of the unforeseen circumstances behind the cancellation of other mayoral forums and debates, Rochester Chamber offered the date for Democratic candidates to arrange a party-only primary debate. While we are sorry that our member businesses will miss the chance to hear from cross-party candidates on issues important to them, Rochester Chamber feels the move is in the best interest of the community.
The Chamber of Commerce says there are no plans to reschedule its candidates forum.
UPDATE (11:50 A.M.) - Mayor Lovely Warren's campaign issued a statement Thursday morning, saying a debate between Democratic candidates would move forward.
Earlier Thursday, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce announced it would cancel its previously-scheduled candidates forum on September 7 if Democratic candidates chose to hold a single-party debate.
Mayor Lovely Warren's Democratic challengers, James Sheppard and Rachel Barnhart, called for a party debate after two previously-scheduled debates had been left in limbo due to Warren falling ill.
In a statement released Thursday, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy said:
When Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce began planning our September 7 Mayoral Candidates Employer Forum in April, we could not have anticipated the recent events that led to the cancellation or postponement of debates and forums hosted by other groups. The purpose of our forum is to give Rochester Chamber member businesses an opportunity to hear from all of the candidates appearing on the mayoral ballot regarding issues important to them, determined by a survey we distributed. As a non-partisan organization, Rochester Chamber never intended our Mayoral Candidates Employer Forum to serve as a single-party debate. We plan to move forward with our forum as originally intended. However, should the Democratic candidates wish to hold a single-party debate on September 7, Rochester Chamber would respect those wishes and give up the date by cancelling our event with apologies to the other candidates. This would allow the Democratic candidates to make their own arrangements.
Warren's campaign organization, "Friends of Lovely Warren," released a subsequent statement which read:
Friends of Lovely Warren has been trying to get local media and other organizations to partner with the Rochester Chamber of Commerce to televise the Chamber’s debate on September 7. When no one stepped up, the Chamber graciously ceded their time, and Channel 8 along with the League of Women Voters has expressed a willingness to televise a debate during that time slot.
Friends of Lovely Warren has been talking to WROC since Monday about possibly partnering with the chamber and we are grateful now that chamber event has been rescheduled that News 8 and The League of Women Voters will be able to move ahead with their previously canceled debate.
Mayor Warren, who, contrary to widespread reports, never said she wouldn’t participate in a televised debate, is grateful that this matter has been resolved.
County Legislator James Sheppard's campaign released the following statement in regard to the news:
Today Lovely Warren succumbed to pressure brought by the community to participate in a public debate. For days I have been calling on Mayor Lovely Warren to participate in televised debates she previously agreed to. But she has resisted. It was always disingenuous for her to say that she could participate in a candidates’ forum, but was not well enough to take part in debates with the candidates who will actually be on the ballot onSeptember 12th.
Most recently, Warren tried unsuccessfully to dictate the terms of a Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum on economic development. She did her best to avoid public scrutiny and limit the need to have to explain her actions.
Despite criticism from some quarters, I have been firm in my resolve to keep the Mayor’s feet to the fire and hold out for a three-person debate that includes all of the Democratic Primary candidates. These have occurred for every single mayoral race since the first election in 1985. When an incumbent is in the race, it makes no sense to have a “debate” without them present. To suggest that we ought to proceed without Lovely Warren in holding a debate designed to determine whether she has earned the right to be re-elected is, frankly, ridiculous.
I'd like to thank Bob Duffy and the Chamber of Commerce for their thoughtful statement which helped force Warren’s decision today. The citizens of Rochester deserve this debate. I am looking forward to the opportunity.
The Democratic primary is scheduled for September 12.