By Seth Daniel
Tuesday night’s highly-anticipated mayoral debate between the two perceived leading candidates, Mayor Martin Walsh and Councilor Tito Jackson, fell flat on its face late last week when the two camps disagreed about who should be on stage.
Political observers and media members all over the City had been anxiously awaiting the first debate between the two major candidates at UMass Boston on Tuesday night, but as the final contingencies were being tended to – everything went up in smoke.
Now, the Jackson campaign is questioning whether Walsh will ever debate Jackson, and whether the mayor will simply shy away from all debates until November. The Walsh campaign countered, though, that it isn’t fair to exclude other candidates on the ballot in a Preliminary Election.
It would have been the first and, likely, only head-to-head debate between the two candidates before the fast-approaching Sept. 26 Preliminary Election, which features four candidates, including Walsh, Jackson, Bob Cappucci and Joe Wiley.
The debate was to be sponsored by the Boston Globe and WBUR.
The Walsh camp said on Friday they would not participate before the Preliminary unless all four candidates were on stage.
“It’s part of the democratic process that each candidate who has earned a place on the ballot has an equal opportunity to be heard by voters,” said Walsh campaign spokesperson Gabrielle Farrell. “While Mayor Walsh was happy to participate in the forum hosted by WBUR and the Boston Globe at UMass Boston – and is fully committed to taking part in a debate before the preliminary election – it is very important to him that voters have an opportunity to hear from all four eligible mayoral candidates.”
Meanwhile, the Jackson campaign said they were completely taken by surprise with the last minute cancelation for Tuesday’s debate. They said Walsh had been fully committed as far as they knew and his campaign had participated in pre-planning.
“The Jackson campaign fully cooperated and participated in the pre-planning debate process,” said campaign spokesperson TaShonda Vincent-Lee. “We were assured both parties had confirmed their participation by the completion of the walk-through. We were saddened upon receiving notice of the cancelation this week. We learned of the incumbent’s choice to not participate in the Sept. 12 debate…via the media. We believe in a fair democratic process, and welcome a debate with the other three mayoral candidates. Yet, just as many others are, I’m curious to know if the incumbent truly means this, considering his refusal and lack of participation in previously scheduled mayoral forums where all four candidates were invited.”
A debate between the final two candidates, which is expected to be Walsh and Jackson, has been penciled in for Oct. 25 – according to the Jackson campaign.
The campaigns have said nearly every news outlet in Boston has requested a debate between the two candidates.