Update 3:40 p.m. Wednesday
The League of Women Voters of New Canaan on Wednesday afternoon announced that the organization “has decided not to conduct the traditional debates in 2015.”
Since New Canaan’s incumbent first selectman has decided not to participate in a candidates’ forum scheduled for next month, the nonprofit organization that hosts the event by its own rules will hold no debate for that office, the group’s leaders say.
According to a letter dated Sept. 27 from the League of Women Voters of New Canaan, First Selectman Rob Mallozzi has officially confirmed what he had told NewCanaanite.com a few weeks ago—namely, that he will not participate in a forum alongside a petitioning candidate for the town’s highest elected office, for several reasons.
According to a letter sent to several people including that candidate, Michael Nowacki, as well as leaders of local party committees, the League of Women Voters “consulted with our moderator and LWV debate expert, and have reached the conclusion that in view of Rob’s decision, there can be no debate for the position of First Selectman.”
“It would be what is called an ‘empty chair’ debate,” the letter said. “Since the candidates for selectman are running unopposed, there is also no debate for that position. Therefore, only the debate among the candidates for Town Council will be held on October 19th.”
Though he stopped short of calling it a farce, Mallozzi has dismissed Nowacki’s bid for first selectman as an attempt to leverage the election process for a platform to voice an unfounded, often personal agenda of disparagement that targets elected and appointed officials.
The league in its letter references three of the organization’s policies, including a section on “ ‘empty chair’ debates.”
“It sometimes happens that only one candidate in a contested election accepts a debate invitation or that a candidate cancels a debate appearance after agreeing to participate, leaving the debate with only one participant—often called an ‘empty chair’ debate. If only one candidate accepts the invitation, the debate should be canceled. While cancellation is also the most prudent course of action when a candidate fails to appear at the event or backs out shortly before the debate, Leagues may need to consider whether and how to proceed should they find themselves in an empty chair debate situation.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 for the League of Women Voters Candidate’s Forum in the Town Hall Meeting Room, with the program scheduled to start at 7 p.m.