GLOVERSVILLE - The Gloversville Democratic Committee recently announced it was sponsoring a candidates forum for the position of City Court judge, but has run into a problem: only one candidate plans to attend.
Committee Chairwoman Robin Wentworth asked City Court Judge John Clo and Traci DiMezza to appear at the forum, but only Clo has confirmed he will attend.
DiMezza said this morning she will not attend the forum.
"I look forward to participating in another forum with John Clo. However, the forum in question was organized and advertised without my prior permission or consulting with my schedule," she said.
"We find it quite irregular that the Democratic chairperson actively promoting [Clo's] candidacy would schedule a public forum without allowing me or my committee any input whatsoever into the date, time, location, and format or selection of the independent moderator," she said.
"We [the Republican committee and DiMezza] are going to attempt to schedule a similar event that is fair to both candidates at a later date," DiMezza said.
The forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at City Hall, but may be in jeopardy of falling through if both candidates will not be there, Wentworth said.
Wentworth said she doesn't think the forum will happen if only Clo attends because that eliminates the point of it.
"It would be only one candidate addressing voters," said Wentworth. "I think having only one candidate would not be fair to the other candidate."
According to another media report, DiMezza said she most likely would not have attended anyway because she believes the format is biased. She said the moderator should be independent and should remain impartial, according to the media report.
The moderator was scheduled to be Pat Beck, publisher of The Leader-Herald.
DiMezza said she felt the moderator should not be associated with endorsing Clo, according to the media report.
Beck is a member of the The Leader-Herald editorial board and the newspaper gave an editorial endorsement of Clo prior to September's Republican primary.
Beck said she has been in contact with the forum's organizers to withdraw her participation to remove any perceived obstacle to DiMezza participating.
Both Wentworth and Beck said that as moderator for the forum, Beck would have nothing to do with the prepared questions.
According to the rules of the forum, the moderator will state the rules and explain the format to the audience. The moderator may enforce the time limits and may interrupt the forum to enforce the ground rules. Each of the candidates will be allowed two minutes to make an opening statement, two minutes to answer the questions, and two minutes to make a closing statement.
Wentworth denied the forum would be biased or favor any candidate. She said the questions that would be asked are those used in similar forums that were developed by the non-partisan League of Woman Voters.
Wentworth, also the city's 1st Ward councilwoman, said the forum would be similar to a job interview. She said the questions that would be asked were researched and used in standard judicial forums. She said none of the questions were made up by the moderator or the committee.
"I never anticipated such a response from either candidate and truly felt this forum was completely unbiased and showed no favoritism to either candidate," Wentworth said. "I have yet to hear from Mrs. DiMezza or anyone from her campaign, but would like to offer her to choose another moderator for the forum and also not even be present myself for the forum. I feel this is an important race for our city and believe that voters need to have an opportunity to be informed before voting for the candidate of their choice."
She said the Democratic Committee is not officially supporting Clo in the race and is sponsoring the forum because no other party has conducted a candidates forum this year.
"I am fully supportive of any public forum where it can offer voters the opportunity to listen and ask questions of those seeking an elective office," Beck said. "These public forums can give accurate information to voters, assisting them in making informed choices."
"This is the biggest race in the city of Gloversville this year and it is a very important one," Wentworth said. "We wanted to give the candidates the opportunity to present their strengths to the voters so that they can make an informed decision."
Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.