The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)


GOP candidates to not attend PAC 99 candidate forum

- By Carly Stone cstone@oneidadisp­

Oneida, N.Y. — Local candidates have a chance to discuss Oneida’s important issues during a candidate forum this Thursday. Only, the Republican candidates will not be in attendance.

The forum, hosted by Public Access Channel (PAC) 99, will take place this Thursday at the Oneida Public Library starting at 5:30 p.m. and is designed for voters to meet with candidates and ask questions, according to the event’s Facebook page.

In a statement sent to the Dispatch, Oneida City Republican Chairman Gary Reisman Jr. confirmed and explained why his party’s candidates would not be participat­ing.

“As is true in the national, state and now we see in our city, the Democrats believe they can dictate unilateral­ly and people will follow. Oneida city is not a one-party city and if they truly wanted a bi-partisan debate they would have involved the Republican­s beforehand,” Reisman said.

Reisman claims the standard practice to plan a forum, from “presidenti­al debates to local elections,” is for both parties to meet to agree on a date, time, location, and rules. “None of that happened here because the Democrats clearly aren’t interested in a fair and bi-partisan approach,” he said.

In fact, he said Republican candidates weren’t invited to participat­e, at all.

Bruce Burke, president of PAC 99, said Republican­s were invited. He noted e-mail invitation­s were sent on Sept. 7. Oneidacity­republican­s@gmail. com was the email address used to inform Reisman of the forum, according to the original email. Reisman has not yet confirmed if this address is functional. Correspond­ence between Reisman and the Dispatch has been through a different address. The email address listed on the Oneida City Republican Committee Facebook page is oneidacity­

Oneida Democratic Committee Chairman John Nichols confirmed his party’s invitation and acceptance. Most of the Democratic candidates plan to attend, he said, with a few pending as they manage conflictin­g schedules. He said that based on what’s been heard, it’s been known for some time that Republican candidates were not planning to attend.

Nichols also explained the Oneida Democratic Party’s involvemen­t in the forum. He said that his party thought it was a good idea to get a community forum going, as has been done in the past for previous elections. Knowing the Democrats couldn’t host one outright due to bias, he approached Burke to see if PAC 99, what he called a neutral group that could host the event, would be interested in getting something started. Burke agreed.

“PAC 10, Inc. dba PAC 99 does not endorse any candidates nor does it support any particular political party or viewpoint,” PAC 99 wrote in a recent Facebook status addressing the coverage of political programmin­g.

Picking the location of the forum was based on finances and practicali­ty, Nichols said. The Kallet, which is where past forums have been held, would cost money, he said. The Oneida Public Library, with a new community room, wouldn’t cost a penny.

It is worth noting there is a preexistin­g connection between the library and the Oneida Democratic Party as the Democratic candidate for city chamberlai­n, Lillian White, is also a member of the library’s board of trustees. Burke said that he was “in contact with a member of the library board” when figuring out available dates, and he proceeded from there. The city’s Democratic party reserved the Oneida Library’s community room for the event, Nichols said, once a date was confirmed.

Nichols said his party had no involvemen­t in the scheduling of the event. That was all between PAC 99 and the library, he said. Burke stated the same, that the date was picked based on the library and PAC 99’s schedule. Nichols said whatever time and date was picked, the Democratic candidates would have made it work.

“We could have mutually agreed on a date, time, place, and moderator and all our candidates would be there,” Reisman said. “Hopefully this can be done properly and fairly for the next election.”

This election is no surprise, the Democratic chairman said, and having a forum like this shouldn’t come as a shock, either, he added. Nichols said if the Republican­s didn’t like the time and date, they could have thrown out some alternativ­es.

The moderator position was also a point of contention for Reisman. The city’s Democratic party reached out to Dan Jones to moderate the event, Nichols said, because “he had done the MC job last cycle, had announced the Memorial Day parade, and people respect him.”

Nichols said he thinks Jones is a Republican. That hasn’t been confirmed. “Also, it isn’t easy to find people willing to get up and speak in front of a group.” He added that the Republican party didn’t attend the last forum, either.

As a moderator in this particular context, Jones’ position will be to present incoming questions from those who attend to the candidates. There will be a clerk who will receive questions on index cards from the audience. There will be additional prepared questions of a more general nature to be answered by any or all candidates, according to PAC 99. This forum is not a political debate.

The program is being presented as a “Meet the Candidates” event, according to its Facebook event page. Students from Oneida City High School have also been invited to participat­e in the program.

“I understand why wouldn’t want to have a forum with us because they have more to lose than gain because they’re already the incumbent,” Nichols shared. “That’s a political decision, I understand that. But saying that they didn’t have any input? I bet they didn’t offer any.”

Reisman did not respond to the Dispatch’s follow-up questions. Oneida Mayor Helen Acker did not respond to a request for comment.

“Our candidates will continue talking directly with voters about our plans to ensure city and county government operate effectivel­y and efficientl­y,” Reisman concluded in his statement. “We’ll work to keep a lid on taxes, improve our economy, and ensure basic services like police protection and clean streets are a priority.”

Nichol’s said that any Republican candidate can still decide to drop in. “No one would think ill of them,” he said.

 ?? FILE PHOTOS ?? Oneida City Republican Chairman Gary Reisman Jr., left, and Pac99presi­dent Bruce Burke.
FILE PHOTOS Oneida City Republican Chairman Gary Reisman Jr., left, and Pac99presi­dent Bruce Burke.
 ?? ?? John Nichols.
John Nichols.

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