Pam Limes, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Hillsboro, has turned down an invitation to debate her opponent in a forum conducted by The Times-Gazette similar to one the newspaper hosted four years ago featuring Drew Hastings and John Levo.
In a letter dated Aug. 6 extending the invitation to both Limes and Hastings, a Republican who is now the current mayor seeking reelection, Times-Gazette publisher and editor Gary Abernathy explained that the forum would be similar to the Hastings-Levo forum, and noted that after that event both candidates had expressed their satisfaction with its format, fairness and value to the voters.
The 2011 debate was held roundtable style before a large audience at the Hi-Tec Center and broadcast by WVNU. It featured a conversation between the candidates about their philosophies and vision for the city. It was video recorded and placed on The Times-Gazette’s YouTube channel, where it can still be viewed.
Abernathy informed both candidates that this year’s event was planned to take place at the Highland County Senior Citizen Center.
Hastings accepted the invitation, writing on Aug. 16, “Thanks for your invitation to the mayoral forum. I think it’s a great way to inform voters and familiarize them with their options this November. I would be happy to participate and look forward to it.”
But in turning it down, Limes referred to a debate held in 2013 and hosted by the American Association of University Women.
In her letter dated Aug. 20, Limes wrote, “In 2013, a precedent was set when all but one Republican candidate boycotted the AAUW debate/forum. Each candidate made a personal decision to do what was best for them. I also have to do what is best for me and my campaign so I respectfully decline the invitation to participate in the Times-Gazette candidate forum/debate.”
Abernathy replied and asked Limes to reconsider, pointing out that The Times-Gazette had no connection with the AAUW debate, and adding that he did not understand the comparison between a city council forum two years ago held by a separate organization and The Times-Gazette’s proposed mayoral debate.
He wrote, “I think you will find this event a wonderful opportunity to bring attention to your candidacy, your ideas and your plans as mayor.”
But in a reply dated Aug. 31, Limes again turned down the invitation, writing, “Again, I have to do what is best for me and my campaign so I respectfully decline the invitation to participate in The Times-Gazette mayor forum/debate. To get my message out to voters, I have other avenues that work best for me and that is what I plan to do.”
Abernathy said that while he respected each candidate’s right to make decisions they believe are in the best interests of their campaigns, he was disappointed that Limes decided against the opportunity to have a conversation about the issues side-by-side with Hastings.
“We received great feedback from both campaigns and from their supporters after our 2011 forum, and we still appreciate both Drew Hastings and John Levo for participating in that event, as well as Hastings’ willingness to participate again this year,” said Abernathy.
“It’s disappointing that voters won’t have a similar opportunity this year,” he said, “but we will continue to provide coverage respectfully and impartially as we have done throughout their campaigns so voters can make an informed decision.”
He said candidates will be asked to answer candidate questionnaires, contribute guest columns and provide video presentations about their candidacies for The Times-Gazette website.
“We have great respect for both Drew and Pam, as we have demonstrated through our coverate to date, and that respect will continue,” said Abernathy.