Following a week which saw Mayor Lovely Warren out of commission, a heated statement from Democratic candidate James Sheppard and two canceled debates, the Democratic candidates are set to finally have a televised debate on Thursday, Sept. 7, at 5:30 p.m.
Originally planned to be a forum for all candidates—including Republican Tony Micciche, Green Party Candidate Alex White and Independent candidate Lori White—in front of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber has ceded the time slot for the Democrats to spar. The debate is set to be a rescheduling of the canceled League of Women Voters, originally set for Thursday, Aug. 24. Warren, in the hospital due to an allergic reaction, spurred cancellation of the debate.
Chamber President Bob Duffy said, in a statement, that the Chamber’s intent to remain non-partisan in their forum faced competition with a chaotic week in the mayoral race. Ultimately, the Chamber opted to cede to the debate.
“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,” Duffy said. “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.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 30, Sheppard issued a press conference in which he criticized Warren for her unwillingness to take part in a televised debate.
“And unfortunately, Mayor Warren is avoiding yet another opportunity to explain her actions by withdrawing from the televised debates,” Sheppard said, in a statement following the press conference. “As a leader, you don’t get to pick the time to lead. You can’t say it’s okay to speak at one forum in front of business leaders but not in front of the whole community. The time to lead is now.”
Following up on Sheppard’s statement, Friends of Lovely Warren issued a statement announcing the upcoming debate, thanking the Chamber for their flexibility. The office further stated News 8 (WROC) was chosen to televise next week’s debate.
According to Dan Smith, senior communications director for the Chamber, as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sheppard, Warren and Rachel Barnhart had all agreed to the terms, with the Chamber officially cancelling the forum in favor of the 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,” the statement from the Warren campaign reads.